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UDP excoriates Trade Licensing Bill

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Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2022. 10:32 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The United Democratic Party (UDP) continues to both distance itself from the original intent of the Trade Licensing Bill and denounce what they say it has become under the current administration.

Shadow Minister for the Public Service Orson Elrington called the government “tax suckers” for apparently going after anyone, in the language of the bill, that is selling online, or acting as peddlers, entertainers, and so on. “Effectively, in short, in summary once again, anybody who attempts to sell anything online, Buy n Sell, anything that you try to do online and try to make any money online, you will now be subject to a tax. So all of those persons just coming out of COVID, a lot of Belizeans must be applauded because COVID brought out the innovation in so many different people and they started to create little online businesses and people tried to trade online. Now, every single person who trades online is subject to a tax. Similarly, any person who sells anything whatsoever in a public place is now also subject to a Trade Licence. … To the entertainers: every entertainer now, if this Bill is passed, would be subject to a $200 tax for every performance. That is the maximum. They’re saying oh it’s maximum. $200. You can pay as much as $200 per performance.”

Party Deputy Leader Hugo Patt insisted that under the UDP, the primary issue was helping town councils collect more revenue, but “at no point in time was there going to be any way of entertaining a possibility of increasing or adding any tax to the people of Belize.” The issue was the assessment of existing businesses and creating a standard methodology of valuing a business by segregating them into categories, each with its own schedule.

“What is happening now, and this is from a layman’s term, is that the net has been widened. The net has been actually brought not only to the towns and cities but the net has now been actually extended to the villages. When you look at the social makeup of the villages it is a totally, totally different economic makeup when you compare a village to when you compare it to a town or a city. Villages, and I will relate to what is happening to us in the north, these are villages that are actually agriculture-based. The economic activity is so minor when you compare it to a town; but importantly, whenever you go after the little bit that these people are making, it will have a huge impact on the economy of the families,” Patt continued, citing recent increases in the inflation rate and the “irresponsibility” of Government to try to take the little people have in taxes, especially coming out of a pandemic.

And the-then Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said the question isn’t whether people should be paying taxes. It is how reasonable those fees should be, and the proposals for entertainers and so on were not clear enough at that time. Worse now, he said, is the time for which this Bill has been brought. It flies in the face of the Government’s insistence on trying to grow the economy.

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