By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The BAHAMAS Union of Teachers’ (BUT) president said yesterday that its 4,000 members were adding their voices in opposition to the “regressive” Value-Added Tax (VAT), as there was still a “great deal of uncertainty” as to how the profession would be impacted.
In a notice to the BUT’s membership highlighting their opposition to VAT, Belinda Wilson said that while teachers were on the list of professionals set to be impacted, it was still unclear how.
“There is a listing of 86 professions in the VAT documents which says these are the professions which will be affected by VAT, and at number 80 it has teachers, but no one is able to say to us what that means,” Mrs Wilson said.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty. I believe that if you want VAT to be successfully implemented then we need to be sure that at the ground level every aspect of it is clear to the wider public.”
The BUT also contends that the revenue component of the taxation is unclear; that the Government has not given a detailed explanation with facts as to show how the fiscal deficit has occurred; and has not outlined measures to ensure that the problem will not be repeated.
The BUT added that VAT implementation has failed in other Caribbean countries such as Barbados, and the Government’s proposed 15 per cent rate is too high, with consumers left to bear the burden.
“The cost of living has increased, and even when you look at other workers, especially those at the minimum wage level, how do you on a minimum wage sustain yourself and family while taking on a regressive tax that they know from the onset will increase your expenditure at least 5 per cent?” Mrs Wilson queried.
She added “Teachers are citizens and consumers, so the teachers have light bills, water bills and they have to go into the grocery stores.
“Teachers are a part of the whole scheme of things. If VAT is going to be implemented in July, there should have been some discussions with teachers and the educational sector as to what changes may need to be made to the schemes of work.”
The BUT is recommending that the Government not implement VAT on July 1, and instead explore other forms of taxation.
The union is also calling on the Government to give a detailed plan on spending cuts for 2014 and beyond. It says that the Government should “not create a Central Revenue Agency but use the system that exists now, and improve monitoring and collection of outstanding taxes”.
Mrs Wilson has urged BUT members to sign the petitions against the implementation of VAT and make their views known to their respective MPs.