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OBA would ‘reintroduce the travel authorisation fees’, says Simons

Cole Simons, the leade of the One Bermuda Alliance gave his reply to the Budget (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Reviving the highly controversial travel authorisation fee is among new taxes being proposed by Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader.

In his reply to the Budget yesterday, Mr Simons said the idea of introducing value added tax on healthcare services should also be looked at as he gave his response to the Budget yesterday.

However, he said his party would suspend Bermuda’s foreign currency purchase tax if it regained power.

Mr Simons told the House of Assembly that if the OBA was in government it would “reintroduce the travel authorisation fees which can be embedded in ticket costs or collected on arrival in Bermuda – supported by international business”.

The Government got rid of the $40 levy to enter Bermuda last November, as it declared the Covid-19 health emergency at an end in the wake of a concerted campaign against the fee spearheaded by the OBA’s shadow health minister Michael Dunkley.

Later in the debate in the House of Assembly, Mr Dunkley said he remained opposed to the TAF, whose reintroduction was also questioned by the Progressive Labour Party.

Noting his frequent calls for the abolition of the fee had been “pooh-poohed” by the PLP, Mr Dunkley said a later suggestion to David Burt, the Premier, that the fee be rolled into the price of an air ticket, had also been rejected.

He added: “The Leader of the Opposition, in meeting with international business, the discussion came up they said hey, if they have to have the form put it into a ticket price – that’s where that came from. There’s no forms involved with it that way.

“I still don’t believe we should bring the form back in any way and we shouldn’t bring the TA back in any way, and in politics we are not going to see 100 per cent with everything in our members in our Caucus, but we still (go) forward together to try to get the best route.”

In a statement, Mr Dunkley later added: “My record on this and any issue can be researched and it would be wise for the PLP not to float a red balloon to distract from the fact that many Bermudians are struggling or have left the island.

“We should all focus on improving the lives of the struggling Bermudians we serve.”

Mr Simons said that other measures to “try and turn the economy around” would include a bid to “examine the possibility of introducing a minimal VAT tax on healthcare services”.

He added: “During these challenging times and the high cost of living, we would suspend Bermuda’s foreign currency purchase tax.

“The problem with this tax is that it increases the cost of all the goods and services that Bermuda imports from abroad, it is excessively regressive, and it has a multiplier effect which means that the relatively small revenue it produces for government might lead the average person to think that its impact is small.

“As an example, if we consider the cost of Belco's fuel is increased by the amount of the FCPT and that means that the cost of electricity is increased not just by the amount of the FCPT but also by the multiple of Belco's profit margin.

“The same applies to our supermarkets and a reduction of our food costs.”

Mr Simons said that “sin taxes” on cigarettes and spirits needed to be reassessed as well.

He said the OBA would also “reduce the size of the government through offering early retirement and through attrition, as the human resource cost is approximately 40 plus per cent of the current account expenditures.”

Mr Simons said if in power he would “develop a glide path to balance its budget within three years and reduce the reoccurring current account deficit and ultimately our current national debt level”.

He said his party would “apply more diligence and provide better management to recover the millions of dollars owed to the government in accounts receivables with assistance previously offered by our international business sector”.

It would also, said Mr Simons, “expand Bermuda’s workforce by relaxing immigration policies so that it is easier for job creators, executives, entrepreneurs, and high net worth individuals to migrate to Bermuda and thereby create jobs”.

Mr Simons said the OBA “would also examine, define, and implement the most equitable, fair, efficient and transparent tax system, to serve the needs and people of Bermuda today and into the future, and not a structure which was crafted to serve the needs of Bermuda’s past and its legacy”.

He added: “We would consider the G20/OECD global tax initiative which addresses domestic tax base erosion, and profit shifting to multinational enterprises to end tax avoidance.

Mr Simons said in order to make commercial and residential construction cost more affordable, “immediate attention would be given to updating Bermuda’s 2014 residential building code book which is a couple of cycles overdue”.

Dawn Simmons, the Progressive Labour Party chairwoman insisted the Opposition could not be trusted with Bermuda’s finances.

In a statement, she said: “In the House of Assembly the OBA committed to increasing costs on Bermudians by proposing the reintroduction of TA fees.”

In response to the Mr Simons saying the OBA would examine the possibility of introducing a minimal VAT tax on healthcare services, the statement added that if the TAF pledge “wasn't bad enough they also shockingly proposed a new tax on healthcare services which would increase the cost of healthcare in Bermuda.

“The PLP government has provided relief to working Bermudians during the pandemic and after by reducing taxes on working families, providing payroll tax rebates, reducing car licensing fees, support to parents for school expenses, elimination of duty for staple goods, and a freeze in gasoline prices.”

• The full reply can be seen under related media

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Published February 25, 2023 at 4:12 pm (Updated February 25, 2023 at 9:24 pm)

OBA would ‘reintroduce the travel authorisation fees’, says Simons

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