By Sen. Hon. MICHAEL Halkitis
The Ministry of Economic Affairs wishes to respond to the statements made in The Nassau Guardian dated Thursday February 16th 2023; wherein the former Minister of State for Finance, Mr. James Kwasi Thompson criticized the governments approach to improving its collection of business license fees and real property tax.
In the article in the Business Section on the said date, the former Minister of State for Finance is quoted as saying:
“End the practice of requiring business tenants to get real property tax information from landlords.
This is not the responsibility of tenants and is wholly unreasonable”
I wish to remind Mr. Kwasi Thompson that he was Minister of State for Finance when in June 2021, the FNM passed and enacted an amendment to the Business License Act that provided in part:
“(6A) Where the applicant for a business license is not the owner of the property or premises from which the business operates, or is located, and outstanding taxes and surcharges are due and payable under the Real Property Tax Act (Ch. 375) in respect of such property or premises, the Secretary shall not grant a license to the applicant unless an arrangement is entered into with the Chief Valuation Officer by the applicant to pay to the Chief Valuation Officer the periodic rent in the reduction of the outstanding real property taxes and surcharges due and payable by the owner.”
The FNM would refuse to grant a business license unless the tenant agrees to pay the real property tax for the landlord! Mr. Kwasi Thompson was Minister of State for Finance at the time charged with responsibility of enforcing these provisions.
The current administration is not following the approach of the FNM.
Instead, the Department of Inland Revenue is simply asking business license applicants to provide either a Real Property Tax assessment number; or, if the tenant does not have or cannot get an assessment number, they should provide the name of the landlord and the location of the premises being rented.
The Department of Inland Revenue will then do the necessary due diligence.
By and large applicants have been complying with this requirement.
Once this information is provided, there is no delay in issuing the business license and in fact the staff at the Department of Inland Revenue has done and continue to do yeoman service in processing and approving thousands of business licenses in the past weeks.
Business operators are reminded that they can utilize their current business license to conduct all business up to March 31 at which point all licenses would have been processed.
As to financial information being required to confirm turnover of businesses, the Department of Inland Revenue has fast tracked several categories of small business including taxi drivers, straw vendors, roadside vendors and small landscape companies among others.
However, it is the duty of the Department to exercise due diligence to ensure that revenue due to the Public Treasury is correctly assessed and collected so that there is fairness to all.
I wish to thank the staff of the Department of Inland Revenue for their diligence and hard work and also offer thanks to the business community and the public for their patience and cooperation.
Senator, the Honourable Michael Halkitis
Minister of Economic Affairs
19th February, 2023