Showdown Looming Between Govt & JHTA over Tax Measures

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, JHTA, is joining the growing ranks of those dissatisfied with the government’s latest revenue measures.

The association has already criticized the government for its move to redirect money destined for the Tourism Enhancement Fund, TEF, to the Consolidated Fund.

But speaking at a press conference today, President of the JHTA, Omar Robinson, says other tax measures put forward by the government could undermine development in the industry.

Among the concerns raised by the JHTA boss are the new property tax measures.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, announced the new measures when he opened the budget debate last week.

At that time he told the Parliament that the measures would have the effect of reducing the tax rate for more than two-hundred thousand property owners.

However Omar Robinson, says some of his members are now being asked to pay increases as high as 980-percent.

He’s urging his membership and the wider industry not to pay over the tax till more information on its computation is provided.

Mr. Robinson is also slamming the GCT imposed on Group Health Insurance, calling the new measure incomprehensible.

He says his members may now have to rethink a planned pension scheme for tourism workers that’s scheduled to come online this September.

Mr. Robinson is also uncomfortable with an increase in the tax on alcohol.

He’s calling on the government to have more open dialogue and discussion with its partners about its tax policy.

But, the Holness administration is this afternoon defending its decision to move money earmarked for the Tourism Enhancement Fund, TEF, to central government as a better way of managing the financial affairs of the country.

The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education, CHASE Fund and the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority which directly collect taxes will also be affected by the move.

State Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Fayval Williams, explains that the decision will allow surpluses from these public bodies to remain in the Consolidated Fund.

This will allow the funds to be available to central government for use as it sees fit.

She was responding to outrage expressed by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, JHTA, yesterday which has called on the government not to go ahead with its plans.

Mrs. Williams says the agencies will submit their budgets as per usual for approval.

She rejected suggestions that the move will allow the boards of the public bodies to lose their autonomy to regulate their own affairs.

Meanwhile, the State Minister says legislative changes giving central government greater access to funds from public bodies started in 2015.