By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) is holding talks with industry associations over the formation of a ‘Tax Coalition’, Tribune Business can reveal, as a tool “to figure out what commerce needs to do” over Value-Added Tax (VAT).
Robert Myers, the BCCEC vice-chairman who is leading the fledgling initiative, confirmed the talks but said nothing had been finalised yet.
Industry sources told Tribune Business that a meeting was held on the initiative, tentatively titled the ‘Coalition for Responsible Taxation’, at the BCCEC’s Shirley Street headquarters on Tuesday.
The move, which some are labelling a ‘VAT Committee’, is designed to produce a comprehensive private sector analysis and response of the Government’s tax reform centrepiece, and how it will impact the business community - overall and as individual industries.
The initial plan is that it will ‘bridge the gap’ between the Government and private sector over VAT and the whole issue of taxation and reform, initiating dialogue between both.
The Coalition, if formed, would have as its membership the heads of associations from industries such as hotels/tourism, financial services, construction, auto dealers, engineers, architects, and accountants, Tribune Business understands.
Emphasising that nothing formal had been agreed to, Mr Myers said: “There’s strength in numbers. We’ve basically gone to them [association heads] and said: ‘Is there any interest?’.
“There’s nothing formal and there’s no commitments from anybody. But we’ve all got to deal with this tax issue, how we implement it, what systems are employed.”
He confirmed: “Yes, the Chamber is in dialogue, we’re in conversations, but we haven’t formed any Coalition yet. There’s nothing more than a bunch of guys and girls around the table saying: ‘Does this make sense?’
“Any approach is going to be very proactive, and very co-operative. We’re not looking to make any issues; we’re trying to figure out what commerce needs to do to make this work.
“We don’t know any details. There’s no legislation, there’s no regulations, there’s no tariff schedules, there’s no financial models.”
The impending introduction of VAT come July 1, 2014, has sparked numerous concerns in the Bahamian business community.
These have ranged from suggestions that the timetable for introducing VAT is “too aggressive”, and that the Government is leaving it too long to educate consumers and the private sector, to fears that the new tax will be inflationary and cause widespread ‘across the board’ price increases.
That, in turn, has caused concerns about a drop in living standards and increased living costs, coupled with a fall-off in business for many in the private sector.