By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
OPPOSITION leader Phillip Davis yesterday slammed the Minnis administration’s over its recent decision to revert to the previous definition of owner-occupied properties, arguing that this was a “stark contrast” to the treatment of Bahamians.
Despite the insistence of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest that the government’s decision to rollback its revised definition of owner-occupied properties was not a bid to appease irate Lyford Cay residents, Mr Davis said his pronouncement underscored the government’s “incompetence” and provided a stark contrast between how rapidly it responded to “the cries of Bahamians as compared to their response to a moneyed few”.
Mr Turnquest previously noted the government had sought to increase taxes on foreign-owned undeveloped land in The Bahamas, in an effort to discourage land speculation and to encourage development of any such property.
He said the government had also taken steps to improve the tax yield from homes used for commercial purposes by recasting the definition of “owner-occupied” properties and by imposing value added tax on vacation home rentals.
The term “owner-occupied property” had been altered to remove the phrase “or seasonal basis,” instead inserting a requirement that an owner must reside in their property for at least six months annually to qualify under this definition.
The Bahamas’ second homeowner community, many of whom are in this nation for just a few months per year, ultimately fell out of the “owner-occupied” category and lower tax rates that were reduced in 2016. And, besides the higher tax rate, which the government had doubled from one percent to two percent on the property value above $500,000, they were also set to lose the $50,000 “cap” that set the ceiling, or limit, on how much they pay annually to the Public Treasury.
“This so-called “people’s time” government has shown in just 15 short months that they do not have the interest of the Bahamian people and the nation at heart,’ said Mr Davis.
“They have increased VAT although they promised not to while in opposition. They have taken away school uniform allowances from persons less able to afford it. They have delayed the conclusion of the Grand Lucayan Hotel deal for personal reasons.
“This incompetent, spiteful and avaricious government is fiddling while the good people of Grand Bahama cry out for jobs and relief.”