Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AN estimated 79,000 households have benefitted from the Minnis administration’s concession that eliminates value added tax on Bahamas Power and Light bills under $300.
According to Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest, the figure surpasses a goal set by the government last year to impact around 60,000 households.
He made the announcement yesterday at Parliament to correct an error made during his budget presentation last week that only 23,500 people benefited from the VAT zero rating on light bills.
Water bills $50 and under are also VAT free.
“We provided a sense of tax relief for the Bahamian people by a number of tax measures in this and in previous budgets,” the deputy prime minister told Parliament.
“We made water bills under $50 and electricity bills under $300 zero rated under value added tax and last week in my communication we announced that this would be permanent.
“However to clarify that estimate that I mentioned during that communication after questions in the media about our projection of 60,000 beneficial households made last year. I said in the communication last week that 23,500 households had benefitted from the concessions to eliminate VAT on water and electricity on the specified rates.
“Households that benefited from the zero-rating on electricity bills actually average 79,000 households not 23,000, which represents approximately 84 percent of the residential consumers in New Providence and the Family Islands.
“So, in total, the amount of consumers that are benefitting from this change actually surpassed our initial estimate of 60,000.”
He continued: “You see, Mr Speaker, when they talk about us not doing anything for the people, and only focusing on fiscal numbers but not doing things that people can feel in their pockets, it begs me to question their perspective of governance and what it means to act in the best interest of our people.
“If providing tax relief so that over 79,000 households in this country do not have to pay an extra seven and a half percent that they put on their water and electricity bills is not in the best interest of the people, I shudder to think what the opposition thinks is in the best interest of the people.
“These examples vividly demonstrate that, unlike our predecessors, we do not just talk about change, we actually implement it.”
The government raised the ceiling for VAT-free electricity bills last November in direct response to soaring costs at the time.
Initially the ceiling was set at $200 and first announced in the 2018/2019 budget.