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Olive Nelson: Giving God a bad name

Published:Thursday | March 3, 2016 | 3:00 AM
Olive Nelson

With the passing of the silliest silly season of them all and with some weeks still to go in the Lenten season, it is a good time for reflection, introspection and atonement.

There is much work therein for all of us, of course, but for the politicians who dressed up God in party colours, dragged Him along on the campaign trail and spoke of Him as if He were deaf, theirs will be a particularly formidable task.

When a candidate emphatically declares to a television reporter that "the victory will be a victory for God", what does she do when the expected victory turns out to be a loss? Does it then become God's loss? And when you solemnly declare that you are awaiting your Master's touch to determine the most judicious date for an election which you then go on to lose, are you not giving God, a bad name? When we draw the religious card we should ensure that we are doing so solely to the glory of God.

The results of this election are truly remarkable in many ways, not least of which is the unprecedented nail-biting finish. For me, some results were particularly significant:

 

MOST PLEASING WINS

1. Dr Winston Green - PNP - St Mary South East - for his courage in publicly supporting (Gleaner June 30, 2015) twinned parish council/general elections as a major cost-cutting initiative, although his party was showing no interest in the subject.

2. Floyd Green - JLP - St Elizabeth South West - for being a symbol of hope for the future - young, focused, energetic, seemingly sincerely intent on making a positive difference. Should seek lessons in survival strategies from the PNP's Julian Robinson.

 

MOST DISAPPOINTING WINS

1. St Elizabeth North East - PNP - Evon Redman - for proving right the official view that the unresolved representational grievances of the constituents and the 'dissing' of the 15 or more busloads of them who travelled to the PNP Kingston headquarters would not prevent them from coalescing around the polling station at the right time to deliver their loyalty votes.

2. Robert Pickersgill - PNP - St Catherine North West - reasons deferred (editorial word count constraints).

 

MOST PLEASING LOSS

Arnaldo Brown - PNP- St Catherine East Central - should go a far way in curing his bizarre sense of entitlement.

 

THE HOLNESS TAX COMMITMENT

There is a world of difference between raising the income tax threshold from the current level of $592,000 to $1.5m for everybody and restricting the increased relief only to those who earn no more than $1.5m. Public discourse on this issue has largely centred on the latter impractical scenario where a promotion, grade increment, bonus, overtime, anything pushing you, even marginally, over the $1.5m benchmark would push you back into a $592,000 threshold tax bracket. And if any of this should occur in the latter part of the year a taxpayer could find himself facing huge arrears for those earlier months for which he had had no tax deducted under the new $1.5m exemption regime. Such an imposition would, if nothing else, be enormously inconsistent with the stated intention to simplify the tax system. I have not heard the JLP coming out to deny this interpretation but I very much doubt that that is what they could have had in mind.

 

SERIOUS REVENUE LOSS

A more feasible proposition, in terms of payroll administration, is to have the income tax threshold increased for everybody. This would, of course, apply to a much wider grouping of taxpayers and would have even more serious revenue loss implications. If introduced on April 1, as promised, all those taxpayers falling within the exempt category would, under normal circumstances, become immediately eligible for a refund of the income tax already deducted from their pay since the beginning of this year. For some employers, the PAYE deductions payable to the revenue for May will be virtually wiped out by the April payroll adjustments. The effect of any plan to address the consequential revenue shortfalls must be equally swift.

To date, we have not been told how the revenue gaps are going to be filled but we know it is not going to be from transfer tax or from stamp duties for there is already a commitment to reduce those. But there is GCT and there is still PAYE for there was no undertaking given in relation to the tax rate, which for individuals is now at 25%. An upward movement to 33% or more should not be ruled out. For those earning no more than $1.5m the Government would have satisfied its $1.5m commitment but those earning in the region of $4m and above could find themselves paying more.

Whatever the decision, the new government will have to act quickly to diffuse the wild expectations of the more gullible among us - some of whom are expecting to take home an extra $18,000 each month although their earnings are, at the moment, barely in the taxable bracket. It is the price of overselling.

- Olive Nelson is a chartered accountant. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and olivescottn@gmail.com.