NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton said yesterday that the organization plans to “lobby very hard” for Hurricane Dorian tax breaks to be extended beyond June 30, telling Eyewitness News residents “really haven’t been able to get much accomplished”.
Hutton said the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously delayed the island’s recovery process and restoration of the island’s second home segment, which he noted is critical to its tourism sector.
“At this rate, who knows when we will see meaningful tourism activity here again? One of the key things is we have to be able to open to tourism,” asked Hutton.
“The key factor in tourism here isn’t the hotels; it’s the second homeowners. They cannot come back until the COVID restrictions are loosened, not only here but back in their home countries. It’s a huge factor.
“Right now, building supply costs have gone crazy. The longer this goes on, the more delay there is in Abaco being able to recover sufficiently.”
Hutton added: “With all of these COVID restrictions, we’re running out of time in terms of being able to utilize the tax concessions.
“As a chamber, we are going to be lobbying very hard to have those extensions continue past June 30 because we really haven’t been able to get much accomplished.
“It’s not like we are demanding something unreasonable. The fact that these concessions are in place is great but the people that need to take advantage of them can’t because of travel restrictions.
“Coming here isn’t so much the issue, but rather it’s the fact that you can’t come here without any certainty that you can get back home free of problems. Protocols could be put in place stating that they have to quarantine for two weeks and so persons are not taking that risk.”
The government, under the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (Special Economic Recovery Zone)(Relief) Order, has extended a number of tax concessions that were set to expire at the end of December to June of this year.
The Economic Recovery Zones, implemented in late 2019 in Dorian’s aftermath, provide businesses and homeowners in the areas impacted by the monster storm with a number of tax breaks and concessions.
Value-added tax (VAT), import duty and excise tax were eliminated on construction materials and all other physical goods sold and brought into the zones, in addition to discounts on real property tax and other real estate-related taxes, provided certain conditions are met.
Last month, the Ministry of Finance announced that zero-rated construction services and the import of vehicles VAT-free will also receive extensions.