NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday announced a value-added tax (VAT)-free holiday for “critical hurricane supplies and equipment” beginning sometime next month as he encouraged Bahamians to prepare for the current hurricane season.
“I remind Bahamians and residents to begin their hurricane preparations,” Minnis said as he led debate of the 2021/2022 budget in the House of Assembly.
“To assist with these preparations, this year, for the first time, we will undertake a VAT holiday for hurricane preparations.
“This will be during the month of July.
“This will assist Bahamians and residents to enjoy VAT-free shopping on a range of critical hurricane supplies and equipment.”
The prime minister advised that VAT holidays are solely applicable to items purchased within The Bahamas from local wholesalers and retailers.
“We want people to shop at home so that this money stays at home and benefits Bahamian businesses and, by extension, all of the employees of these commercial enterprises,” he said.
“So, my message to everyone is that they should use the month of July to get their homes and businesses readied for the hurricane season.
“Take advantage of the savings and avoid the rush.”
The Ministry of Finance is expected to release details on the dates and items included for VAT-free shopping.
During the debate, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper suggested the government’s plan to introduce the VAT-free holiday in July for residents to prepare was not fully thought through, noting that hurricane season has already begun and residents ought to be preparing now.
Last year, the government introduced legislation that authorized the minister of finance to provide VAT holidays up to twice per year for 30 days for specific reasons.
The move saw a back-to-school VAT holiday last August.
The prime minister said the measure provided Bahamian households with VAT-free shopping on a range of school supplies as parents got their children prepared for the new academic year.
“The VAT holiday provided millions of dollars in saving across the country and were a boost for Bahamian businesses,” he said.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
The Bahamas has been impacted by several major hurricanes in recent years.
These include Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and Dorian in 2019.
Inagua, South Acklins and Ragged Island took the most direct hit from Irma, which packed winds of 155 miles per hour.
Hurricane Dorian, which had winds of near 185 miles per hour, decimated portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The storm left 74 people dead and many more missing.
Yesterday, the prime minister announced Bahamians in the southern Bahamas will be granted a new slate of concessions like duty and VAT-free concessions on a full range of materials needed to build or renovate their homes or to start or expand a business.
“For the residents of these islands, there has never been a better time to invest in that cottage or to refurbish an ancestral home to welcome visitors from around the world and to become a direct owner in the hospitality sector,” Minnis said.
“This is about ownership, Mr Speaker, and it gives Bahamians the chance to retain a greater piece of the tourism pie.
“The emergence of platforms for online commerce now permits ordinary Bahamians to become owners in the hospitality trade and to explore so many other opportunities to deliver goods and services all over the world.
“My government will expand its direct support for Bahamians in the vacation homes market and in the digital space.”