EDITOR, The Tribune
The government recently made changes to various tax laws, which included the criminalisation of non-payment of taxes.
This means that, in The Bahamas, you can now end up in prison for not paying, among others, Real Property Taxes.
Previously, this breach would have ended in administrative fines and penalties.
Now, we have the Minister of Finance and the Financial Secretary boasting that they will spend millions of dollars to assemble a team of ‘enforcers’ to track down those who may be delinquent, for whatever reason, and to go door-to-door searching for such delinquents. The justification for this is that there is almost $480 million dollars in RP Tax outstanding.
The Real Property Tax Act came into force in 1969. Meaning that the $480 million of arrears (including interest and surcharges) to which they refer, have accumulated over fifty years.
In stark contrast to this mercenary approach that has been adopted, we have a government that recently legalised gambling for locals, and, in the process, did not confiscate a single dollar of illegal assets that were accumulated during the decades before, did not prosecute or imprison a single person involved in the illegal activity, did not bar a single one of the illegal operators from participating in the legalised gaming, and imposed only a nominal rate of taxation on the winnings of these operations. Moreover, all of this was done AGAINST the will of the people, as expressed in a national referendum on the subject. Then, to add salt to our wounds, after the new government announced their intention to increase the tax rate on these gambling operations, the operators refused to pay. And the response of the government was to reverse course, reduce the proposed tax rate and forgive the first six months of the new tax. Even now, some of the operators continue to refuse to pay. And NONE of them has been hunted down, prosecuted, or threatened with imprisonment.
But the government wants to prosecute hardworking people, who struggled to build a home or build a small business because they are unable to pay property taxes on time? Have we gone mad?
And here is the final rub. The gambling operators have been permitted to take home almost $250 million a year for themselves, while the government proposes to spend millions and persecute thousands of people to try to collect $480 million. In just two years, they would have this amount if they had nationalised gambling.
If there is justice, it will surely be meted out in 2022.
June 5, 2019