Tuesday, 18 December 2012 02:30
By Carol Williams
Antigua, St. John’s - A special task force established to undertake a comprehensive review of the country’s tax structure and rates is due to present its final report to Cabinet in nine months.
The 24-member Tax Policy Task Force chaired by Neil Coates of PricewaterhouseCoopers was announced yesterday by Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell during his presentation of the 2013 budget.
Lovell revealed that the group, which met for the first time this month, will consider how tax policy may be improved to create a more business-friendly environment to encourage investment and improve the viability of businesses.
After the report has been handed in, the Minister said, the next step will be to establish timelines to implement the recommendations.
The task force will examine the main sources of tax revenue and their performance; assess the feasibility of eliminating border taxes in Antigua & Barbuda; and review current tax legislation, rates, policies and structure to understand the extent to which the system facilitates an enabling business environment.
The members have also been charged with identifying how revenue responds to changes in economic performance in general, and for key economic sectors in particular; determine whether the tax revenue base has the capacity to meet and sustain Government’s fiscal strategy; investigate the relationship between compliance levels and existing tax policies and legislation; determine whether there is over-reliance on any particular taxes; and ascertain whether the tax system is mainly progressive, proportional or regressive.
“Given that our businesses have identified these issues as the main impediments to their competitiveness, we have determined that they should be directly engaged to identify corrective measures that would help to make the tax system more accommodating to business activity,” Lovell said.
The members include representatives of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Bar Association, the Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association, Marjorie Parchment - Bryson’s Insurance Agency, Kim Burdon - Trade Union Congress, Acres Stowe and Dr. Vanetta Rodgers - the Antigua & Barbuda Employers Federation, Carol Spencer - Antigua & Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League, and Kathy David – PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The other members are Cassandra Simon - Accounting Solutions, Pedro Corbin – Goddard Catering Group, Paul Ryan – Antigua Motors, Patrick Ryan – Bryson’s Shipping and Insurance, Cleveland Seaforth – KPMG, Wilbur Harrigan – PKF Chartered Accountants, Marlon Rawlins – Banking and Finance Specialist, Avondale Thomas – Allen Thomas and Associates, Stephen Joseph – Bargain Centre Supermarket, Franklyn Braithwaite – Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association, Everett Christian - Ministry of Finance Revenue Reform Manager, Henderson Fields - Antigua & Barbuda Investment Authority, Raju Boddu - Comptroller of Customs, Ralph Warner – Commissioner of Inland Revenue, and Ted Lewis – Ministry of Finance
While the review is being undertaken, the Minister told Parliament, Government is giving immediate consideration to a Private Sector Stimulus Package in order to boost economic activity.
This initiative, put forward by the Antigua & Barbuda Employers Federation, calls for a duty-free period where local businesses would be able to import merchandise free of duty for sale to the public.
“The Government will work with representatives of the ABEF to finalise the details of a feasible programme that can be launched in 2013,” Lovell said.
He added that the aim is to twin this intervention with a Black Friday-type promotion by businesses, to ensure that both the businesses and consumers receive maximum benefit.
The Minister further announced that the 10 percent reduction in the Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax will again be implemented from this Friday through to Monday, due to the success of last weekend’s initiative.