Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022. 2:45 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Trade Licensing Bill, 2022 was read for the first time by Minister of Labour, Local Government, Rural Transformation and Community Development Oscar Requeña.
The new bill makes further provisions for trade licenses for local businesses or trade in goods and services and repeals Chapter 66 of the Laws of Belize, the original Trade Licensing Act.
Dating back to 2014, trade licensing reform was begun by the Ministry in conjunction with the Belize Mayors’ Association and the Economic Development Council to recommend a new trade license regime. Also consulted are the village council organizations, Chamber of Commerce and Industry; professional associations; the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, and others.
According to Requeña, the new regime is grounded in principles of predictability (assessments and fees are fixed for three years); transparency (elements of methodology to determine fees are published and calculations can be made); accountability (eliminating discretionary procedures); ease of administration (moving application online); revenue neutrality (neutralizing the effects of the regime on both the local authority and the licensee.
The new trade licensing boards (for each district other than Cayo, which has separate boards for Belmopan, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, and Benque Viejo and three separate divisions covering the various villages as well as Caye Caulker) have tenure for three years and fees are established, with a tribunal in place to hear appeals; businesses classified by type of product; zoning of municipalities where trade can be conducted; the establishment of a “productive footprint,” defined in the law as the usable square footage of the premises used to conduct a trade, exclusive of common areas not used for profit; Gazette publications of application particulars; expansion of the regime to rural areas (except for agricultural areas) for businesses larger than 600 square feet in productive footprint; capping increases or decreases to mitigate impacts by 10 percent per existing business; and so on.
The seventh schedule to the Act lists the following as subject to trade license: commercial travellers – maximum fee of $250.00 per truck per annum; peddlers – maximum fee of $300.00 per annum; amusement rides – maximum fee of $500.00 per day; international performers/entertainers – maximum fee of $500.00 per day; (Belizean) entertainers – maximum fee of $200.00 per day; building contractors – $100.00 per every 1,000 square feet up to 3,000 square feet per contract and $400.00 per contract for building size greater than 3,001 square feet; omnibuses – maximum fee of $2.00 per day; taxi operators – maximum fee of $1.00 per day; e-business operators – maximum fee of $600.00 per annum; utility service providers –maximum of $500 per annum; auto dealers, maximum of $500 per annum; travelling professionals – maximum of $500 per annum. In San Pedro Town, the following are also taxed: building contractors, $300.00 per every 1,000 square feet up to 3,000 square feet per contract and $3,000.00 per contract for building size greater than 3,001 square feet, and golf cart rentals –$100.00 per golf cart per annum.
Trade licenses are necessary, Requena said, for the regulation of trade, protection of public health and safety, for local authorities to provide necessary services, and ultimately to provide an opportunity for further growth.
The Bill is now before the Public Service, Labour, Industry and Trade Committee for examination, consideration and report.
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