Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Ministry of Finance Releases the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Study on the Economic and Social Impacts of value added tax (VAT) in The Bahamas

For the IDB's Study on the Economic and Social Impacts of VAT in The Bahamas click here.

This is a highly technical research, fully calibrated to the local circumstances and based on a complete representation of the Bahamian economy. For reference, the study presents the impacts of alternative rates for the VAT in combination with corresponding, alternative compensating cuts in customs tariffs and excise rates. This includes the structure set out in the draft legislation, with a standard VAT rate of 15% and a rate of 10% for hotel accommodations and food and beverage sales in hotels.

The study predicts that the introduction of VAT, alongside other reforms to reduce the public debt, would have positive economic and fiscal benefits. These returns would be magnified further, if accompanied by a temporary but well targeted increase in public spending on programs to assist the poor and vulnerable in society, as the government already intends to do.

There are no significant short-term negative outcomes that are expected from the introduction of a VAT. Domestic economic activity would remain essentially unchanged from its present uptrend. However, the pace of economic activity is forecasted to strengthen steadily thereafter in comparison to the status quo.

A VAT at 15 percent corresponds to the most ambitious upfront rebalancing of the tax base. At this rate, over a decade, the size of the economy could be some 10 percent larger, than in the case where reforms were not forthcoming. Such dynamic gains would predictably also occur but to a lesser degree with a more tempered rebalancing of the tax base.

The IDB’s results are consistent with expectations for the type of fiscal reform package that is being considered for The Bahamas. Reducing distortionary taxes on business activities, and placing more direct emphasis on consumption taxes, would stimulate a projected increase national savings and investments. The private sector investment climate would also benefit from expanded access to financing that would no longer be needed to fund government deficits. These are forecasted to contribute to a stronger growth potential and reduced unemployment, which would be felt across all broad sectors of the economy.

The inflationary impact of tax reform is projected to be modest. At 15 percent the VAT rate would lead to a forecasted overall inflation rate that would be 3 to 4 percentage points higher than otherwise in the first year.

The prediction for inflation is consistent with the design of the Bahamas’ tax reform proposal. The impact of VAT would be cushioned by significant reductions in custom tariffs and excise rates, and would also feature exemptions for key areas of consumption.

After the first year of VAT, Bahamians should expect to see beneficial effects on the cost of living as a result of the tax reform package. In particular, after a few years cost of living is expected to be lower than in the absence of fiscal reforms. This is because the government through its deficit spending is a significant contributor to price increases, and such pressures are forecasted to subside.

On December 9, the IDB will host a one day, technical seminar on the economic model. The seminar participants will include economists and researchers from the Ministry of Finance, the Department of Statistics, the Central Bank and Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation. Afterwards, there will be a handover of the model to a Bahamian technical group so that additional economic simulations can be carried out if desired. More in-depth training on the model is planned for January 2014.

December 06, 2013

For the IDB's Study on the Economic and Social Impacts of VAT in The Bahamas click here.