By David Tapfer
Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the United States, cautioned that building a country would cost public taxes. Taxes then, as now, were not a popular idea.
Franklin described the problem: “Don't tax me, don't tax thee, tax the man behind that tree.”
The TCI is not the USA. Our tiny country is smaller than one neighbourhood in Miami.
David Tapfer is a retired, US-born engineer and management executive. He is the former chairman of the Middle Caicos Branch of the Peoples Democratic Movement
The USA had tremendous potential, first in agriculture then in industry and now in high tech. Through immigration a growing population shared the tax burden and the USA grew and prospered as the world’s most successful country.
Tiny TCI has tremendous potential mentioned in the recent “Green Paper”. The use of the American dollar and our proximity to the USA are attractions for our single industry... tourism. The independent Bahamas has its own currency and does do not have our charm of distance. Those 560 miles of ocean water is a special advantage for us.
Right now, we are being assessed tax after tax, raising our cost of living and destroying our attractive position as a low tax economy. The tax signal sounded when NIB was installed back in the Washy era. An eight percent income tax was levied on our wages. Now it appears that, despite the small benefits paid to retirees, NIB taxes will eventually have to be raised. The bad NIB investments made in Mike and Washy's TCI Bank by Trevor Cooke hurt. Boyce and Ewing's NHIP tacked on another 6 percent, raising income taxes to 14 percent. However, the NHIP tax does not come close to paying the cost of what I call Ewingcare. That is one reason the direct rule government is installing the unpopular VAT tax.
We must not forget that everything we ship in from the USA is duty taxed 30 percent. We are also taxed on the freight and freight handling via Provo Stevedores. At least half our income is now consumed by taxes.
We now feel the sting of escalating taxes but the pain was forecast in the last budget address delivered by PNP Financial Minister Hall. “We don't want to charge income and property taxes but we may have to,” he said. The PNP then went on to raise the price of business and vehicle licenses. The PNP then taxed gasoline but did not pay for the road paving they ordered. Paving bills were left for us to pay.
The direct rule government has found it necessary to raise all these new taxes and still we have failed to pay all the debts and dismissed all the obligations the PNP left us with. The government budget is yet to be balanced by the British civil servants here in droves. The recent comments by Pat Boyle indicate a man frightened his latest budget will be blown again. When will British contingent liability kick in?
The “man behind the tree” for years has been our tourists, who pay our 11 percent hospitality tax and our big fat departure tax. Taxes on hotels in the USA are higher, yet VAT on rooms has been set to not exceed 11 percent. Tourism has gone down because of the PNP air travel strandings, discouraging travel agents.
We need more tourists. The airport strandings were a terrible idea led by Mike, Devon, Greene and Ewing. The result is fewer stay-over arrivals. We need more “people behind the tree” and we are getting less.