By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The prime minister yesterday pledged corporate Bahamas will receive “prompter service and less bureaucracy” when they submit business licence filings and payments in the New Year.
Dr Hubert Minnis, pictured, addressing the House of Assembly, said new businesses not requiring special approval will be able to obtain provisional licences within 48 hours of applying as part of the Government’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and small business growth.
“Businesses going to apply for their business licence in the New Year will get prompter service and less government bureaucracy,” he promised. “The Department of Inland Revenue is committed to ensuring that businesses feel the difference. The process has been strained, and the department has initiated a game plan to ensure that it can address businesses promptly and reduce the time to get a business license renewal.
“The provisions approved in June will allow for businesses to get a provisional licence to come on stream early in 2019. For most simple and straightforward businesses, they can get a provisional license in 48 hours.”
Dr Minnis also addressed the controversial business licence regulations that the Government introduced in July but has has now rolled-back through the last House of Assembly session for 2018 - something it had to do before year-end and the start of revenue attestations in January.
The bill debated yesterday removed regulations requiring companies to supply audited financials and certified bank statements, taking the business licence certification process back to the pre-July “status quo” as demanded by Bahamian accountants and the private sector.
Dr Minnis said: “Parliament approved a range of amendments during the recent budget exercise with the aim of providing an enhanced level of oversight on certain matters while, at the same time, ensuring that the Government advances its ease of doing business initiatives to make it easier for persons to get into business and, at the same time, stay in business.”
He added that the Government had decided to eliminate business licence fees for businesses with an annual turnover of $100,000 or less. “Eighty percent of businesses in The Bahamas fall into that category,” Dr Minnis said.
“Only 20 percent have a turnover of more than $100,000. Out of that 20 percent, there are only 24 large businesses that contribute over 50 percent of the revenue generated by business license.” Dr Minnis added that the Department of Inland Revenue has been ordered to increase their vigilance and audit activities to discourage fraudulent statements.
K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, said the Government’s goal was to put people in business and improve the ease of doing business in The Bahamas, adding that business licence fees generate roughly $150m annually for the Public Treasury.
He said the Government’s intent in demanding audited financial statements and certified bank statements from companies had been to encourage accurate reporting.
“We recognise that there are some practical challenges to obtaining bank or financial statements, and complications that may result from the co-mingling of personal and business activities,” he said, stressing that companies must improve their accounting standards.