Gov’t Rushes To Implement Tax Hikes

Melissa Edwards, Senior Reporter | 8 Opinions
Published: July 17, 2017 7:13 am AST
Tourists at the Prison Museum
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The National Democratic Party (NDP) administration has moved swiftly to implement two major tax increases, which will impact the tourism industry.

Just under three months after passing a legislation to charge tourists a $10 environment levy, Government has announced that the fee will take effect on September 1.

Government also recently announced that the increase for cruising permit fees will take effect from August 1.

Political observers have considered this to be a move by an administration which is pursuing tax and fee hikes to bring in much needed revenues to Government’s coffers, and a sign that revenue is desperately needed to keep Government afloat.

The Environmental Protection and Tourism Improvement Fund Act, 2017, was passed in the House of Assembly in April.

Government has stated that visitors to the Virgin Islands are being advised that effective September 1, an environmental and tourism levy of $10.00 will be collected on arrival at the ports of entry.

Government has indicated that the monies collected will be used to facilitate environmental protection and improvement, climate change, and the maintenance and development of tourist sites and other tourism related activities.

In relation to the cruising permit fees, Government stated that effective August 1, home and foreign based charters will see an increase in cruising permit fees to $6 and $16 per person, per day, respectively.

The amended Cruising Permit Ordinance (Cap. 203) was passed by the House of Assembly in June.

Opposition Leader, Hon. Andrew Fahie has since cautioned Government against increasing taxes and fees simultaneously in the tourism industry.

Hon. Fahie said that the $10 environment levy, followed by the fee increase for cruising permits, weeks apart, is not fair to those who are being taxed. He said that he is in support of the fee increase for cruising permits, but believes that the Environment Protection and Tourism Improvement Fund Act, 2017, should be repealed.

"This cruising permit should have been in place long ago, but we might disagree here; bringing it in now with the other taxes will cause some contention," Hon. Fahie said.

He added, "But I feel that we can increase this amount and repeal that environment evy that we are going to put on them (visitors) when they are coming in...Because I feel it will have more effect and we will get more revenue through this angle."

The Opposition Leader believes that the actions by Government can result in turning away visitors.

"If we look at all the other fees that are tax on all those who are going to be coming in, on those cruising permits per person, and then add this on, we have to ask ourselves if we are not taxing ourselves out of the industry, whilst saying that we are trying to protect it."

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