Tax package leaves western stakeholders fuming
Some top stakeholders in western Jamaica are hopping mad with the Government's decision to place a levy on group health insurance and want a rollback of the $1.5 million tax threshold set to take effect April 1. Instead, they want the tax net to be widened to support the $13.5 billion tax package.
"Our main concern is the tax on health insurance and the likely impact on the poor, who already can barely afford health care," said Gloria Henry, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We should be finding ways to promote more persons having access to affordable health care rather than increasing the cost, given that our public health care system is woefully inadequate.
"Come April 1, when the new threshold for personal income tax is introduced, only six per cent of the Jamaican workforce will be contributing to PAYE (pay-as-you-earn taxes). I think serious consideration should be given to abolish this tax and use a more equitable tax measure to replace that amount."
Henry, who spoke to The Gleaner from Puerto Rico, further argued that it was the same persons - compliant businesses and those in the formal workforce - who continue to be the target of taxation and called for more creativity in the revenue-generating measures.
ROLL BACK THE $1.5M
Like Henry, the outspoken former president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce, businessman Dennis Seivwright, wants a rollback of the $1.5 million tax threshold, saying it is going to be too much of a burden on the working class.
"This tax package is going to be a burden on the working class of people. The Government should admit that the $1.5 million tax promise was an error in judgement and make an about turn before it's too late," Seivwright declared. "If they are serious, they could reduce the general consumption tax and add other items that are now exempt.
"Maintaining a special consumption tax on petrol will have a ripple effect on several goods and services, but the biggest surprise of all is that they are barefaced enough to be doing the same thing that they condemned while in opposition. We are going to regret this in the long run."
The western region is also home to the majority of the 45 business process outsourcing (BPO) firms operating locally, who are now smarting from the Government's rejection of their plea for a rollback of a 12.5 per cent corporate income tax on that industry.
According to the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, the umbrella organisation for the BPO sector, such a move places Jamaica at a disadvantage.