St. John’s Antigua- Opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) senator Lennox Weston and his colleague Maureen Payne Hyman urged residents to stand up against government’s plan to implement taxes on benefits and allowances.
Speaking at a meeting in Freetown Thursday evening and in a subsequent interview with the Daily OBSERVER, Weston said the party maintains its objection to the move because of the setbacks it poses in all spheres of society.
“The government has destroyed and continues to destroy everything that was good in this country. All we have is suffering. Think about your own household bills, think about what it (the taxes) will do in your own household when they are putting on more taxes,” Weston said.
While he acknowledged the details of the tax plan have not yet been revealed, Weston said, “Taxes of any sort at this time in Antigua & Barbuda is a bad idea and to put it on benefits and allowances under this broad based net is in poor taste. It can’t happen, not on March 1. Professionals, businesses and even executives are against it.”
The senator said the move would be counter-productive given the country’s poor economic performance over the past three years.
“To reduce disposable income would be to kill businesses, it would impact on government taxes and so much more. Why is our tax yield going down to what it was when we didn’t have taxes? Economies are built on disposable income,” Weston said.
In his urge to government to revisit the idea, Weston said, “You cannot take water from a cup with a fixed portion and not expect the cup to become dry some day. You cannot exact money from the same source over and over again.”
Meantime, Hyman, a political hopeful on the ALP card, said the move shows incompetence of those governing the country as well as their insensitivity towards the state of affairs in the community.
“The government is insensitive to the needs of people in this country. Imagine they want to tax benefits. Imagine they passed a law and they didn’t implement it and now, when the prices are so high and they’ve squeezed every dollar out of us, they want to tax our benefits. We have to stand firm and fight that because benefits make up people’s salaries.
“Salaries are low and we have to stand with the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) and fight for our people so you can go to the supermarket and not worry whether you can afford what you want to put in our basket,” Hyman said as she rallied attendees at the meeting to join in publicly challenging the implementation of the tax system.
Allowances and benefits to be taxed under a provision within the Personal Income Tax Act (2005) include transportation to and from work, telephone allowances, retirement allowances, pension plans and thrift fund contributions, tuition fees, scholarships and bursaries, legal fees, accommodations, child care expenses, commission, loan forgiveness and write-offs, among others.
The policy is expected to be implemented on March 1, 2012.
Already the Business Alliance, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Eastern Caribbean Antigua & Barbuda Branch, and the Insurance Associationas well as the bankers, bar, medical and dental associations have expressed disapproval of the planned taxation of allowances and benefits.
Meantime, apart from the tax issue, the ALP members petitioned the people to join in the call for transparency over the controversial Wadadli Power Plant deal and the report on the fencing scandal.
Among the issues raised about the fencing issue were overpricing and payment for incomplete work. A team of auditors investigated those matters and government said it found no prima facie evidence of wrongdoing.