By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A citizens’ group organised in opposition to Value-Added Tax (VAT) is aiming to rally support to petition the Government over alternative forms of taxation, claiming the current plan would create a disproportionate economic burden on the middle and lower classes via regressive taxation.
Tamara Van Breugel, a founder and spokesperson for the Citizens for a Better Bahamas movement, said that in the Turks & Caicos Islands, a citizens’ group had been able to successfully lobby the government to move away from VAT and consider alternatives.
“We are a non-partisan group. We believe that it is an important matter to take up with our government,” said Mrs Van Breugel.
“Our prime minister has said that he is open to discussion. I believe that there are alternatives to VAT. In Turks and Caicos, a group of people got together and were able to successfully advocate their government to move away from the VAT suggestion, and carry on some alternatives in order to reform their economy.”
Mrs Van Breugel added: “We as citizens have to bind together. We are calling on all citizens of the Bahamas to advocate and petition the Government, in every constituency, minister by minister, that we prefer for them to consider alternatives to VAT.
“We’re not experts; we’re just citizens with a concern. We have to move quickly. We have to express in a very urgent way, a respectful and peaceful way, to our government that we prefer for them to consider some reasonable alternative.”
According to the group’s website, it is opposing the imposition of a VAT as it believes it will “contradict the country’s constitutional laws by creating a disproportionate economic burden on the middle and lower classes through regressive taxation; diminish our national commitment to the rule of law by disregarding current outstanding taxes, creating new avenues for grey market activity, tax evasion and fraud.”
The group also believes that a VAT would, “diminish our right of protection from deprivation of property without compensation by burdening the productivity of private enterprise with the responsibility of government tax collection, without compensation in exchange for these services, and diminish our right to life, liberty and security due to the negative economic and social impacts of rising prices”.
Citizens for a Better Bahamas stated: “Some of the impacts we believe will be: Decreased purchasing power; increased unemployment; increased cost of doing business; increased white collar and blue collar crime; decreased access to quality goods and services, including nourishment, health care services and educational services; increased poverty and an additional burden on social assistance programmes.”
The group is calling for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act; the creation of legislation to protect public funds from wastage, mismanagement and misappropriation; the implementation of full enforcement and collection of outstanding taxes; the implementation of stringent policies to further reduce government expenditure; the development of near-term plans to relinquish under-utilised or unprofitable government assets and corporations; and legislation for stricter conditions under which future government indebtedness could be assumed.
The group is inviting Bahamians to post comments to its website http://www.citizensforabetterbahamas.org/ as well as recommendations for responsible alternatives to VAT.