By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas is running out of additional revenue sources, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday, adding that he believed the country had achieved the "maximum" yield from Customs duties.
His comments came following an address at the 2012-2013 Fiscal Position Seminar at the Sheraton, Cable Beach. Speaking on the potential move towards an alternative system of taxation, chiefly Value Added Tax (VAT), Mr Christie said: "The Bahamas is one of the very few countries, I don't know of any, that doesn't have some form of value added tax.
"When we look at the revenue of our country we are running out of sources for additional revenue. We are at the maximum now, I think, of what we can get from the Customs duties. What we have not been able to do is have an effective collection of real property tax."
Mr Christie said a white paper on the issue would be published for public comment. "We will have a white paper in short order. I have the basis of the white paper in my hands now, and I'm going through it now. I will give it to my government to look at, and it will be published for public comment. It is a major shift in government policy, and if it is to happen I would want it to happen quickly. A lot of training would be necessary if you were to implement a change of that kind."
Speaking on the issue during his speech at the seminar, Mr Christie said: "We have not gone a great job of educating our people on the inequities that exist in our present system of taxation, it impacts the poor greatly."
The Ministry of Finance's leading consultant, James Smith, recently told Tribune Business that this nation's tax revenues - as a percentage of GDP - were 10 points below the Western Hemisphere average, and that broadening the Bahamas' tax base was essential to bridging a revenue "gap."