Priest: Tax Web Shopsby Rogan Smith
A leading clergyman is suggesting the government tax the illegal number houses as a way of generating revenue and offsetting the impending value added tax (VAT).
The government has announced plans to introduce VAT on July 1, 2014 as a means of broadening the country’s tax base.
The Bahamas will apply a 15 per cent VAT to a broad range of goods and services.
In the past, many Bahamians have suggested the government tax the web shops, which are raking in millions of dollars annually.
“Be real with the numbers business. It is here to stay. Effectively tax the number houses,” said Father Sebastian Campbell, rector at St. Gregory’s Anglican Church.
“Research has already shown that this is an oasis of wealth sitting in our midst. Governments sometimes must make hard and unpopular decisions for the good of the country; go for it. It is common knowledge that many involved in the numbers business voted against the referendum in January. By so doing they guarantee greater gains for themselves.”
In January, the Christie administration held a referendum to give Bahamians an a chance to vote to regularise the numbers industry.
The majority of Bahamians rejected the referendum. A legal battle has ensued since then with the government taking steps to shut down the numbers racket and the attorneys for the web shop operators attempting to keep it open.
“In January, please be honest and admit, we had an opinion poll, it was loaded with flaws. I urge the government to do the most appropriate thing, lead. The resource is here; let’s tax it for the common good. As parliament goes into the debate of gaming now is the time to level the playing field. Do not give away rights to foreigners that Bahamians don’t have in their own country,” he said.
“This is a hot button topic; it is not prudent to do it near an election, therefore now is the time. We have no luxury in waiting for this one. By 2017 Bahamians would have experienced the results and government would have had time to tweak and show the public the benefit of the new regime.”
Father Campbell said The Bahamas’ financial system must be overhauled, as is it is “totally inadequate and not real to the times.”
In fact, he said it is “miraculous” that Bahamians have survived so long without radically overhauling its tax structure.
He also suggested the government make improvements in the area of tax collection. Millions of dollars, he said, are alleged to be outstanding.
“We must confess our failure to successfully achieve maximum results in tax collection. VAT, mind you, is said not to be a progressive form of taxation, I am no tax expert, but I’ve heard the cry from friends in the region that have it,” he said.
“Income tax is said to be more progressive and will cause those who have more to carry a greater portion of the burden as opposed to a VAT, where all men will be equal in contribution. Bahamians ought to also beware that some countries in our region have both VAT and income tax. Yet remember, too, The Bahamas is an archipelago. We have to repeat maybe some 60 plus times that which regional countries might only have to do once.”
Father Campbell also called on his colleagues within the church to prepare their congregations and the nation as a whole for this reality.
“This is where leadership is warranted now in our development. It is not the duty of only the government and politicians in educating our people and to give leadership. The church must assist in leading the way and not get in the way of this necessary, progressive, albeit radical move. It might be a good gesture for government to launch its plan education programme with the church,” he said.
VAT has been implemented in 140 countries around the world.
November 06. 2013
The Bahama Journal