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Beat Oecd/Eu To Income Tax

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ALFRED M SEARS, QC

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A former attorney general yesterday urged The Bahamas to implement a "progressive" income tax regime geared to its own needs before one is imposed by the OECD/European Union (EU).

Alfred Sears QC told Tribune Business that this nation should view its upcoming removal from the EU's so-called "grey" list, as revealed by the Financial Times, as "a very temporary reprieve" that gives it time to design a tax system suited "for the 21st century economy".

Arguing that The Bahamas' current reliance on regressive consumption-based taxes, such as VAT and import tariffs, was "inefficient" and generating insufficient revenue to meet the country's development needs, Mr Sears argued it needed to implement corporate and personal income taxes that suit its requirements before an inappropriate system is forced upon the country from outside.

Such pressures appear to gathering at the Paris-based headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the self-proclaimed overseer of global tax competition, which is increasingly suggesting that all nations introduce some kind of "minimum" corporate income-type tax as a means to crack down on avoidance/evasion by multinational corporations.

This, together with the OECD's focus on developing a uniform global system for taxing the digital economy, and players such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, suggests it may only be a matter of time before The Bahamas faces calls to bring its taxation system into line.

"It is what I consider a very temporary reprieve," Mr Sears told Tribune Business, should the Financial Times report about The Bahamas being removed from the EU's 'grey' list prove true. "If we become complacent in celebrating the removal, which indeed is warranted, we will lose sight of the fact we can reasonably expect an ongoing protectionist campaign against The Bahamas as a low tax nation.

"Any reprieve must be used wisely because trust me: The next assault is right around the corner. That is one way of eroding sovereignty - the right of countries to chose when, and how, and at what rate, to tax. It has weakened and eroded the competitive capacity of this country."

The Bahamas avoided the EU's non-cooperation "blacklist" last March, but was placed on a so-called 'grey list' of 34 jurisdictions that were given until the end of last year to fulfill their commitments to complying with its tax transparency and anti-evasion/avoidance demands otherwise they could be "blacklisted" in 2020.

This week's Financial Times report suggests The Bahamas has now completely satisfied its demands to eliminate "ring fencing", which are investment incentives provided to foreign entities and investors that are not available in the domestic market, and economic substance requirements that call for companies present here to have a physical presence and be doing real business.

The action, though, now appears to be shifting to the OECD, whose Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BASE) initiative shares similarities to the EU effort. As a result, Mr Sears urged The Bahamas to move rapidly on tax reforms for its own benefit rather than for the EU/OECD.

"Rather than designing a tax regime for the peace, order and good governance of The Bahamas, what we will have is a tax and tax rate being imposed in order to lesson the competitive advantage they perceive The Bahamas and other low tax jurisdictions have," he told Tribune Business.

"We need to realign ourselves. Clearly, from the national perspective, relying on consumption tax is inefficient. We have to address it rather than keep kicking the can down the lane. We need a tax policy that sustains in an efficient manner the infrastructure we have throughout the archipelago with a very disparate population."

Arguing that The Bahamas' current tax structure is simply not generating sufficient revenues to meet the country's development and social needs, Mr Sears added: "There needs to be a new tax regime, not one imposed by the OECD or EU as their intent is to run us out of business, but designed to meet the development needs of our society.

"I would introduce a corporate income tax, but I personally believe we need personal income tax. We need a progressive system of taxation. The more skewed the distribution of wealth is, the greater the incidence of crime, disaffection and utter neglect of infrastructure. We have to design a tax regime that is progressive.

"That's essential to maintaining domestic stability and, in my opinion, it's the best way to ensure we have the proper delivery of services to make the quality of life - not only for Bahamians but visitors - sustainable and realign ourselves for the 21st century global economy. Certainly the tax regime we have now is really regressive and it cannot sustain this small population and country."

Paul Moss, Dominion Management Services' president, told Tribune Business that the term "false joy" was the best way to describe The Bahamas' reported removal from the EU's 'grey list' as the cost of complying with the 27-nation bloc's demands had been significant.

"Once you do comply with what they demand, business closes out and clients leave," he told Tribune Business. "We've done everything we can do, and what we've done is create a slow death of the financial services industry. If we stay with this model we will certainly die sooner rather than later."

Reiterating his call for The Bahamas to implement a low-rate corporate income tax before it is forced upon the country by the likes of the EU and OECD, he added: "I've been advocating for this since 1999 or so, and every year it gets closer. I'm not sure why our leaders cannot see it.

"They're going to be forced to do it, and if they're forced to do it we will not have the wiggle room to do it in a way that will be advantageous to us. We should not be wasting time passing stop-gap laws. They need to look at the industry holistically, and make the right set of changes so we become competitive in this ever-changing world.

"At the end of the day it comes back to tax. That's why the offshore world was created because onshore tax rates were considered too punitive. We have to be competing on tax."

Comments

Sickened 1 month, 3 weeks ago

A low corporate income tax I can understand - an income tax is an absolute no go for me. Without some seriously good and immediate social services (roads, transportation, health care, infrastructure) an income tax would just be further stealing by our government from its people.

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Proguing 1 month, 3 weeks ago

You can’t have one without the other. If there is no income tax, every owner of a company will pay himself a bonus equivalent to what would have been the profit of the company to avoid the corporate tax.

But yes government will love it, more revenues and more civil servants. And they will say don’t worry we will have a low income tax rate like VAT, and we all know how that will end.

In any case there will be a huge cost to collect corporate and income taxes. Just to cover that you need a 10% rate. So at a minimum we are looking at 20% rate for both. That will be the minimum too for any double tax treaty. But these pro income and corporate tax people will not tell you that.

And you can also say good bye to Lyford Cay, Albany, Old Fort Bay tax exiles etc.

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 3 weeks ago

If you removed corruption from the Government, there wouldn't be a need for income tax or even VAT. 40 years of plundering the public treasury has caused this country to go broke, nothing else.

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Proguing 1 month, 3 weeks ago

VAT is the most efficient form of taxation for this nation. The financial burden is on the private sector and compliance is very high. Basic goods and services can be exempt, which is what the government has done.

What is inefficient is any tax collected by the government such as real estate tax or import duties with very low compliance and corruption.

There were two pillars of this financial center. Secrecy and zero taxation. The first pillar is gone and if we cut the second pillar this will be the end of it. People who think that France will sign a double tax treaty with the Bahamas because we implement a 5% corporate tax are dreaming!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Sears wants us to feed our corrupt 'spend, spend, spend' governments more taxes so that more of our hard earned money can be wasted, squandered or simply stolen. And he wants us to do this under the guise of an OECD/EU appeasement policy. What a blithering idiot!

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tetelestai 1 month, 3 weeks ago

He is right though, Mudda. Current tax system is both regressive and unsustainable. That is Econ 101. Income tax, for all its warts, is by far the most equitable tax. Your point regarding wasteful government spending is fair, but not enough to permanently separate ourselves from this crippling existing tax system.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Anytime new types of taxation are introduced, or there's an increase in existing types of taxes and government fees, the additional taxes and fees are used to further grow the size of government and feed more graft and corruption at all levels government. This has been going on for decades and Bahamians and local businesses are being bankrupted by a wide array of ever escalating taxes and fees including customs duties, VAT, re-assessed property taxes, soaring utility bills, higher national insurance contribution requirements, and so on and so on.

Each year nearly 6,000 'graduating' D- students enter the job market from our dysfunctional public education system and there are no decent paying private sector jobs for them because of the failed social and economic policies of successive PLP and FNM governments alike. Revenues from an added new progressive tax system would only be used to put these illiterate to borderline literate annual new job market entrants onto the already bloated payrolls of government departments, government agencies and government. We are well past the point of something having to give here as indicated by our out-of-control national debt plus unfunded pension obligations and other government guaranteed entitlements now totalling $13 billion ($13,000,000,000).

Absent drastic austerity measures of the most unpleasant kind for the government of the day in terms of social instability and higher crime in the near term, we are destined to become a failed state controlled entirely by external forces. That's the harsh reality of where we're at today and no amount of progessive taxation without most serious successful cost cutting first will allow us to climb out of the deep hole incompetent and corrupt politicians have dug for us.

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 3 weeks ago

If we keep this failed state ship called The Bahamas from sinking for another ten years, I will be completely shocked. This country has bankruptcy written all over it. Nothing can survive the amount of negligent stewardship this country has sustained since Independence. Nothing.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 2 weeks ago

You're so right. A friend of mine who had been thinking about firing her illegal Haitian gardener recently found out he has 6 children back in Haiti and another 10 children born in the Bahamas by three different Haitian women. No amount of progressive taxation can keep up with that explosive rate of propagation across our rapidly growing illegal Haitian community. Now my friend doesn't want to fire her illegal Haitian gardener because she feels he has so many mouths to feed. I told her the fact that he brought 16 children into this world should tell her the only mouth he's interested in feeding is his own mouth.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 3 weeks ago

BahamaPundit is mussy one of these Conchy Joes who always raining down "doom and gloom" on their "darkie" Government ……. what these rich Conchy Joes need to do is become more engaged in the economy and society and stop complaining..

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 3 weeks ago

How can Income Tax be collected without it ending up being corrupted like Real Property Tax, NIB, or Business Tax ……… when kisses will go by favour???????

Simple formula ……… Exempt all income earners under $20,000 …….. 5% on up to $40,000 ……. 10% up to $50,000 ……… 20% up to $100,000 …….. 25% for all who make over $100K ……… 30% for all who make over $200,000.

But lawyers, doctors and accountants will not vote for this suggestion.

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bogart 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Income Tax has long been overdue.

IINCOME TAX is not only lt taxing....... BUT INCOME TAX ....CREDITS, EXEMPTIONS...DEFERRALS....ils also use to offer incentives to create desired ...immeDiate NATION BUILDING....actions by way of TAX EXEMPTIONS ....TAX CREDITS....DEFERRALS.... In administering there is the CREATION OF EMPLOYMENTSfor the many Auditors to Audit the Evadors, Cheats.....and jobs to defend the Tax Cheats.

TAXES ....to individuals...companies....businesses....can have TAX CREDITS...stop allplying taxes various amounts.....if businesses employ jobs ....in MANUFACTURING....AGRICULTURE....TECHNOLOGY....ETCETC....CAN HAVE GROWTH AND DIVERFICATION EXPANSION IN.......VARIOUS ISLANDS......REPOPULATE THE DESIRED FAMILY ISLANDS.....LESSEN AND REVERSE DEPOPULATION OF FAMILY ISLANDS....people go back to islands for opportunities...jobs...other businesses start....necessary govt spending to govern islands services gain economies....!!!!!!

Anyway, no INCOME TAX and TAXES ...Accompanying..CREDITS ETC. to develop Nation will ever be done .....because for decades as the rich get richer and its the political cohorts get richer...families friends lovers...continue with the..... government of the rich, ...by the rich and.... for the rich...wastages, massive overruns in contract prices....massine propping up of govt agencies so political cohorts can get job...enforce victinazations run the corrupt ship.....Fact is proof in the biggest increasinf gap between the rich and poor...regressive VAT extracting mostest off backs of the poor.....ridiculous price gouging food prices.etc.....couple beat up peaches almost $3...orange juice, milk $6.....ridiculous here compared to 50 miles away in Miami...just over the Bahamian maritime borderline jus off beach in Walkers, Westend, Bimini....and dont bother asking why the Nation is the sixth most expensive in da world...!!!!!

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proudloudandfnm 1 month, 2 weeks ago

No NEW TAXES, NO INCREASE OF ANY TAX, NO MORE REVENUE FOR GOVERNMENT. Not until we get SEVERE REFORM AND SIGNIFICANT DOWNSIZING....

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