By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Marsh Harbour/Spring City Council’s head yesterday urged the Government to give Dorian-ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama "a Christmas present" by extending their tax breaks beyond year-end.
Roscoe Thompson told Tribune Business that both islands' Special Economic Recovery Zone status should be extended for a second time by "at least three to four months" to compensate for the reconstruction time lost to COVID-19.
"The only concern I have is that coming into December the duty-free exemptions are supposed to be done with," he said. "The Government really needs to look at extending them for the hurricane ravaged places because of COVID-19.
"People need to be able to get here and get back to their homes and fix them up. They're going to have to look at extending for at least a couple of months as a lot of businesses have that need and they have just not come back due to COVID-19.
"We've had eight to nine months of COVID-19 restrictions that have hindered a lot of people from moving back and getting started. We are in November already, so this is the time the time the Government needs to give Abaco and Grand Bahama - as we're still rebuilding from the hurricane - a little Christmas present of a three to four month extension; something reasonable."
The Economic Recovery Zones, implemented in late 2019 in Dorian’s aftermath, provide businesses and homeowners in the storm-ravaged areas with a variety of tax breaks and concessions. VAT, import duty and Excise Tax has been eliminated on construction materials and all other physical goods sold and brought into the zones, while discounts have also been provided on real property tax and other real estate-related taxes provided certain conditions are met.
The government also removed VAT from construction services, and has already extended the zones' life once beyond their initial end-June expiry to year-end 2020. K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, also previously pointed out that the tax exemptions related to building materials do not expire until end-June 2021 to coincide with the close of the fiscal year.
He told this newspaper that the "building materials" definition also covered VAT on construction services, meaning that the latter will also be tax free for next year's first half on Grand Bahama and Abaco.