Posted: Wednesday, October 18, 2023. 2:53 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Minister of Local Government Oscar Requeña has promised that the updated Trade Licensing Bill will ensure that village councils’ governance will be strengthened with the additional funds they will obtain from trade licenses that will be used to develop infrastructure – fees will go directly to village councils rather than Central Government.
After a year-plus worth of consultations since the bill was introduced (also on a Friday, May 13), Requeña reported on the changes made. Fees will now be assessed every three years rather than annually, promoting efficiency and predictability for businesses and the government; a ten percent ceiling and floor against the assessed fee for both existing and new businesses has been introduced to avert overcharging businesses; the fee covers only the productive footprint of the business (where business is conducted) by established formula; the establishment of mobile licenses for businesses that operate nationwide so they only need to apply once.
But the Opposition’s Hugo Patt reiterated the United Democratic Party’s view that this version of the license “is just another tax on the backs of the Belizean people, a tax that is structured in such a way that when it is cast it will pick up everybody” and called it a “rape and scrape bill.” He argued that not only are larger businesses taxed, but also peddlers who sell small goods and live off of what they make.
In reply Minister Kevin Bernard, Area Representative, Orange Walk East, said Patt was once a Minister for Local Government and part of the discussions that led to the current legislation. He pointed out that the smaller shops would not qualify as their footprint is smaller than 600 square feet, while peddlers currently pay $10 per day which would be reduced to less than a dollar (82 cents) per day.
In wrapping up, Minister Requeña mentioned that the issue of entertainers originally having to pay has been resolved and only concert promoters will be required to pay trade license. He also clarified that the Seventh Schedule to the Bill does not apply to villages, only in towns and cities. The funds would be accounted for on submission to the Treasury by village councils and released to them thereafter.
The new regime, assuming it passes the Senate, goes into effect on the first day of 2025.
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