Anger over new business licence requirements for renewals



SOME small business owners expressed frustration over the new requirements affecting business licence renewals, describing them as “short notice”, “offensive”, “insensitive” and “cruel”.

Last month, the Davis administration made policy changes mandating that all businesses provide the real property tax assessment number for the building from which the business operates, even if they are renting the space.

The Davis administration at the same time warned that failure to accurately report the newly required information could result in delays in the processing of business licence renewal submissions, which are due within 27 days from the end of January.

Speaking to The Tribune this week, Renee Miller, the owner of several local businesses including an Airbnb and a car rental operation, told The Tribune that she is fed up.

“As for this renewal information, I find it offensive. I find it insensitive. And I find it to be very, very cruel. I think what’s happening is everybody has been shoved in one basket - there’s no lenience,” Mrs Miller said.

“What I find is most of the people who are working with government normally have never, ever had a business. So they work based on what they believe a business can do. The expectation level should always be high for any business person,” she said.

Mrs Miller described her personal experience with trying to renew a business licence recently.

“The application says, ‘in order to finalise your application please provide us with your income statement financials for the year 2022.’ So you’re telling me now I need to sit down or find somebody to do an income statement. That’s money, “ Mrs Miller said.

“Then, I get a tax paper saying that the home that I live in and now I’m owing them a certain amount of money, because it shows that I own two properties. And when I checked, I asked the lady which two properties are these?

“One is my name with an ‘s’ and the other is my name with an ‘m’. The one with an ‘s’, I have no clue who that is. So now, they’re making mistakes. They’re not even checking data, they’re just trying to collect revenue,” Mrs Miller said.

Mrs Miller said the policy changes came with no forewarning for small business owners.

“There was no preparation. They didn’t give you any warning, no pre-warning. You sent the executioner to just execute whatever needs to be executed, the hell with people who just are trying to help other people,” she said.

“They throw you down in the cesspit and when you come out of the cesspit you stink and they want to give you two sheets of toilet paper, and say ‘here’. That’s what this is,” she said.

Officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Inland Revenue reported that the new requirements will boost business licence and real property tax revenue as well as better detect those businesses that are tax dodging and being untruthful about their annual revenue.

However, Tessa Lightbourne, owner and head chef at artisan cake boutique Bourne Sweet, said that in addition to financial challenges like inflation, the fluctuation in fuel costs, and the rise the Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) electricity charges, these new policies make it even harder for genuine small business owners to conduct business in the country.

“It’s inconvenient for small businesses, especially when you have no storefront and you don’t have that point-of-sale system, where you press a button, and everything is there,” Ms Lightbourne said.

“I guess, in a way it’s inconvenient because a lot of companies don’t have it so it’s gonna be a lot of work for them to get their business licences for this year, especially if they’re doing any government work because you know, you need all those things to be up to date to get these contracts with the government or do any kind of supplement vendor or anything like that,” Ms Lightbourne said.

“But then also the positive in it is, it is going to force small businesses to look at their finances more heavily,” she said.

“It is what it is, you can’t do anything about it. They’re going to do what they want to do. Even with all of these negative parts about it, it’s gonna have to get done if you want the business licence,” Ms Lightbourne said.

Khrystle Rutherford- Ferguson, chairperson at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), suggested that policymakers be more conscious of the country’s current economic climate by making policies that are business friendly.

“As a country, we should encourage the ease of doing business. And the easier it is to do business in the country, the more our economy will flourish, the better it is for our communities, and the better it is for job creation,” Mrs Rutherford- Ferguson said.

“Now, we’ve already seen where there are some external pressures with regard to inflation that have an impact on the business community. There are other costs and fees that have gone up locally that also impact the business community,” she said.

“So, had this been an environment where you were looking at, perhaps just one issue to contend with as a business owner, you may have been able to weather the proverbial storm, but we’re looking at our economic climate, where you have all of these external pressures added with the rising cost of doing business,” Mrs Rutherford- Ferguson said.

“So naturally, the business community is concerned about all of these things, and it makes sense. “Then, you have this other aspect where it is increasingly difficult to do business,” she said.

“So, from the Chamber’s perspective, we would encourage policymakers to look at ways to support business by implementing business friendly policies; policies that can help support businesses as we weather these treacherous times,” Mrs Rutherford- Ferguson said.

Mrs Rutherford-Ferguson questioned whether officials are ready to efficiently deal with the business licence renewal submissions submitted under these new policies.

“There has been a seven-day period turnaround. But now, we understand that that is taking up to three to four weeks, because they’re requiring more and needing to scrutinise or review more aspects of the application process,” Mrs Rutherford- Ferguson said.

“The question is whether or not there’s enough support staff within the relevant department to ensure that these matters are being reviewed and processed within the expected timeframe,” she said.

“I would think that making sure that the person is well resourced would be a factor as well, but definitely reviewing more documentation requires more human resource officers in order to have a look and review,” she said.


M0J0 7 months, 3 weeks ago

They have always asked for financials for the year so i don't get the issue.


M0J0 7 months, 3 weeks ago

A simple excel sheet will get it done.


IslandWarrior 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The other day, the Lyford Cay committee was targeted for a hike in tax, and everyone just refused to pay, which ended that. Too much pressure has been placed on Bahamians to make up for the failures of politicians who see no value in including Bahamians in the development process; we are placing (again) all of our eggs in the foreign investor basket while Bahamins are left to feel like a used toilet paper, paying for mismanagement of the country by both political parties.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.