By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BUSINESSES behind on National Insurance Board contributions, business licence fees and real property taxes will not be granted concessions through the Over-the-Hill revitalisation programme, according to the Economic Empowerment Zones Bill which was tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday.
In such cases, the minister of finance could grant concessions to them only if he is satisfied the businesses have made arrangements to pay their outstanding debt.
In May, Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said only 30 percent of businesses in the inner city operate within the formal economy, making it unlikely many of the businesses the programme was designed to help will reap its tax benefits.
The economic zone encompasses Nassau Street to Poinciana Drive, Wulff Road, and upwards the western area of Collins Avenue.
Businesses in good standing within the zone would be given a certificate of trade and could receive a business licence fee waiver if they make less than $5m a year, customs duties waivers on the importation of commercial vehicles and exemptions from excise taxes.
Property developers would be issued a certificate of development and would be exempt from real property taxes, excise taxes, stamp duties and customs duties on materials needed for construction of buildings and structures.
“Every approved applicant,” the bill notes, “who imports into the Bahamas any machinery, materials or articles with the benefit of any exemption from customs duty under this section, shall upon being required to do so by the comptroller of customs, cause such machinery, materials or articles to be marked with such marks and in such manner as may be required by the comptroller of customs.”
The Over-the-Hill programme has been a defining policy focus for the Minnis administration this term. A two-minute commercial highlighting the programme was released to social media yesterday and will be broadcast on television. The commercial featured several inner-city businessmen promoting their businesses and praising the strength of their communities.
Before her appointment as director of the National Insurance Board, Dr Nicolla Virgill-Rolle headed the Over-the-Hill programme. The Tribune understands the government is interviewing people to replace her.