By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian retailers yesterday said a one-month transition was not enough time to adjust to a 12 percent VAT, blasting the lack of consultation with the sector as "unacceptable".
Tara Morley-Nolan, the Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) co-chair, said the sector was faced with having to re-price hundreds of thousands of items, meaning that "one month is not enough".
"The lack of consultation with our sector is unacceptable, quite frankly," said Mrs Morley-Nolan following an address by Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest.
She added that while retailers were "thrilled" by the government's decision to provide duty-free exemptions on clothing and shoe imports, there was still no relief for other sectors of the industry that attract extremely high duty rates, such as furniture stores and businesses selling car parts - which attract 45 percent duty and 60 percent duty, respectively.
Mr Turnquest, in response, said the government will shortly publish its VAT "transition rules" to address a number of concerns raised by retailers. "We understand the challenges that retailers face, and are prepared to do some things in respect to that," he added, suggesting that the government would exercise "leniency" on the re-pricing compliance.
"We recognise that there are some businesses that would have contracts up-front for long term, or for goods and services into the future. The transition rules will deal with that," Mr Turnquest said. "It is not our intent to put any of our business entities, our service providers, at a disadvantage. That goes against our intentions."
He added: "With respect to the duty on car parts and other specific items, we made the adjustments which we thought were prudent in this particular budget. I'm not saying that we got it all right, but we also must be careful that we don't erode the base so much that what we are trying to accomplish is defeated trying to satisfy a particular industry or player.
"Experience will tell us how we can adjust the model. There are a number of representations for a number of areas to adjust for a particular industry. We can't be all things to all people. That is what got us in this position. I can assure you that we are open to conversation. We do want to be collaborative."