Antigua Opposition dismisses budget proposals

Says despite abolition of personal income tax, life will be harder for citizens

Friday, January 22, 2016

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – The leader of the main Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell says new tax measures outlined in the 2016 national budget would make life harder for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, despite the announcement of the abolition of personal income tax from April this year.


All but one of the three Opposition legislators boycotted the presentation of the EC$1.8 billion (One Ec dollar =US$0.37 cents) budget by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Thursday and Lovell, a former finance minister said the increase in Revenue Recovery Charge (RRC) from 10 to 13 per cent would make life harder for residents.


Prime Minister Browne said the new measure would yield an additional EC$20 million in revenue.


"I expected that there would be an increase in either the Revenue Recovery Charge, the ABST (Antigua and Barbuda sales Tax) or both. We predicted that and that is not acceptable," he told reporters.


He said by increasing the RRC it would result in an increase in the cost of living and that the Government "would put the burden of the additional revenue on the backs of poor people and that is not fair.


"We have been opposed to that because we said that is a regressive form of taxation rather than a progressive form of taxation."


During his budget presentation, Prime Minister Browne said that personal income tax would be abolished, in keeping with a campaign promise made in 2014.


He said with the elimination of the income tax, more than EC$30 million will be put back into the pockets of citizens.


"The cost of collecting PIT (personal income tax); the difficulty of enforcement; and its unfairness, with most of the self-employed not paying or not paying their fair share; make it sensible to remove the PIT from our books," said Browne.


But Lovell said the Government has not remained true to its original plan to reduce taxes overall.


"Now in terms of the abolition of personal income tax, when he argued in his paper that he would abolish personal income tax he did not say that he would increase any other tax.


"He said he would eliminate waste and by eliminating waste he would be able to abolish personal income tax. He has sown that at no time did he have confidence in his own words and that the theory that he put forward is a flawed theory, is a false doctrine."


Debate on the budget will begin on February 1.

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