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Shaw celebrates income tax break amid Opposition heckling

Published:Tuesday | July 26, 2016 | 7:34 PM
Shaw said in the House this afternoon that the tax break was critical to ensuring that Jamaicans have more money to spend.

 Jovan Johnson, Parliamentary Reporter

Amid heckling and shouts of "scamming" this afternoon Finance Minister Audley Shaw persisted with a statement to the House of Representatives marking the implementation of the first phase of the income tax give back.

Since last Thursday Jamaicans have taken to the airwaves and social media about the additional income they have received as a result of the increase in the non-taxable portion of their salaries.

Effective this month, the personal income tax threshold increased from $592,800 to $1,000,272.

The Government says it will move to $1.5 million next year April.

Shaw said in the House this afternoon that the tax break was critical to ensuring that Jamaicans have more money to spend.

"This phase of tax reform is a signal to the Jamaican people that this government wants to put back more into their pockets while expecting, in return, higher levels of personal productivity," Shaw said.

Shaw continued: "This is the beginning of the road from poverty to prosperity."

He also urged workers to spend wisely.

"I urge workers to spend their extra money responsibly, taking into account back-to-school and other obligations.

The tax break, analysts say, was critical to the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party's victory over the People's National Party in the February General Election.

The phased introduction of the break became the settled approach after the administration bowed to pressure and concerns that the initially proposed wholesale movement to $1.5 million would be administratively difficult and unfair to some higher income earners.

As Shaw delivered his statement this afternoon members of the Opposition shouted "scamming" and other criticisms of the policy.

The finance minister reiterated that the government was intent on moving from direct taxes to indirect taxes which the International Monetary Fund has commended as "bold".

The government imposed more than $13 billion in taxes to fill the gap left by the tax break.

The impact on the IMF support programme is expected to be known after an assessment next month

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com