Photo Credit: File
The government of the Virgin Islands seems to be on a tax imposing spree, according to the former Leader of the Opposition and Representative for District Three, Hon. Julian Fraser, who is of the view that such an act is being taken advantage of.
Hon. Fraser was at the time commenting on a bill titled “Environment Protection and Tourism Improvement Fund Act, 2017”, which was passed in the House of Assembly, yesterday, April 18th.
The bill, which was moved by Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, sees the introduction of a $10 levy tax, that is required to be paid by all visitors to the Territory via sea or air transport.
As outlined by clause three of the act, the tax will be included in the entry tickets of each passenger.
“An environmental levy at the rate of $10 shall be levied on and payable by each visitor arriving in the Virgin Islands by air or sea. A specified sum of money shall be included in the cost of a ticket, collected by the owner, master or any agent for any vessel, or by any person through whom passengers are brought into the Virgin Islands,” clause three of the act reads.
The basis of the tax, according to Premier Smith, is to provide support to the factors which contribute to the improvement of the main pillars of economy---tourism and financial services.
This was further noted in clause four, which reads “The Minister shall direct that the monies of the fund be applied towards activities related to environmental protection improvement, climate change and other matters affecting the environment, the maintenance and development of tourism sites and other tourism-related activities throughout the Territory, and the marketing of the Territory as a premier tourist destination.”
Commenting on the bill, Hon. Fraser said, “I'm wondering about this particular bill, this $10 tax. Not too long ago we imposed an increase on passenger tax and here we are again, talking about the fund being a part of the passenger’s ticket.”
He further noted that the amount of taxes being imposed by the government, that directly hits the pockets of tourists to the British Virgin Islands, may negatively affect the traffic of persons who choose to visit the Territory.
“It has become basically an open season on taxes, and it seems like it is easy to do, so you do it.”
He continued, “Government cannot function without taxes and that’s a given. That being the case, taxes are expected, but when is enough, enough? I can think of something that is far more important right now to us for tax purposes, and that is education."
Hon. Fraser further discussed the processing of the payment via the carriers, where he noted that the idea is not a smart one, based on past experiences.
“Have we learnt nothing about the money being included in the cost of the ticket? This is exactly the reason why the people at the port that collect money are there.”
He noted that some time ago, tickets for travelling to and from the British Virgin Islands included passenger tax at the air and Sseaport, but noted that the money collected “never made it to the Treasury.”
“Are we going to find ourselves doing the same thing again? When you talk about the owners of a carrier service collecting money, you're not going to get it.”
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie also expressed his concerns towards the bill, where he made inquiries as to exactly how the monies collected by the carriers will be collected.
“Of course we want to protect the environment, but how will we get that money collected, given our past history. I say that in wake of us already increasing the passenger tax, and we have to be extremely careful that while we are trying to solve a situation, that we don’t tax our way out of the visitors.”
He said, “Visitors are starting to view whether coming to the BVI is financially a good option for them and their family, in terms of finances. It might seem like $10 is nothing, but if you have a family of four, who has to pay departure tax and other required tax, it becomes expensive. We have to be careful how we handle these things; this is reality.”