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EDITORIAL: Country united against tax

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Country united against tax

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THE DIE has been cast on the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, and the Government should pay attention.
The chorus of voices from diverse sections of the society certainly suggests that many Barbadians view this controversial tax, representing 0.3 per cent of the site value of land with an improved value, as excessive and unfair.
Not since 1994 when Government cut public servants’ salaries by eight per cent has any issue so galvanised Barbadians that they have united in such vociferous condemnation.
The hoteliers have come out against the tax, calling it punitive and saying it will prove an impediment to the economic recovery of the tourism sector – Barbados’ main money earner.
They said in some cases the new tax will cost members a few hundred thousand dollars with no consideration for the fact that the investors helped to create the land values due to the significant levels of their investments.
The business people have cried it down as unfair, arguing the improved value of land has nothing to do with the amount of solid waste produced. They said it would disproportionately impact pensioners, those who have inherited lands but have modest incomes, the unemployed and businesses with large landholdings with little economic yield from them. And they stated that paying it would impact their cash flow and profitability.
The farmers are saying it could ruin them. One large group has been hit with a bill for $170 000, while some farmers are being asked to shell out between $30 000 and $40 000.
They complained that they are already reeling from a prolonged dry spell and an increase in fires, which have destroyed grasslands and damaged crops, along with the perennial problem of praedial larceny, with no significant price rise for their produce in a decade.
?Some homeowners have already sent letters off to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler seeking relief from the tax on the grounds of the hardship paying it would cause them.
The lawyers are threatening to go to court over an aspect of it and have given the Government the first payment deadline of July 28 to respond to claims that it – through the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), which is responsible for collecting the tax – would withhold land tax certificates unless the tax is paid.
The lawyers argue there is no legal connection between the two separate taxes and are prepared to apply to the High Court for a declaration on the matter.
Such opposition to this tax cannot be ignored by the Freundel Stuart administration. And maybe it has not. After all, Minister of Industry Donville Inniss did say on Wednesday that there is enough disquiet in the society about the tax that should cause Government to revisit it. He also said Sinckler had indicated similar feelings.
Given Sinckler’s assertion that the tax’s revenue was needed to pay for our solid waste disposal, it would be interesting to see how Government can ease this unpopular tax while still going after the funds they need.