PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday said he still cannot understand how a government that professes to care about its people is so comfortable and still unable to realistically tackle the issues that would improve their standard of living, but prefer to look at new ways to inflict more tax burden directly and indirectly upon them.
In this context, the MP referred to the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion’s tax-reform presentation on Monday to Parliament as a presentation of nothing. “To summarize, this government doesn’t have a clue about how it will reform any part of the tax system and came to Parliament with suggestions that were based on nothing, that hadn’t been discussed with stakeholders and that were contradictory to what they agreed to with the Dutch government,” Emmanuel said.
All the while, he continued, cost of living continues to rise affected in large part by the import of goods at uncontrolled points of entry and a GEBE fuel clause that has once again increased sending utility bills through the roof for residents and the business sector. “Government response to this is to tax you more,” MP Emmanuel stressed.
He mentioned as example the real estate tax, which in his opinion are just two other words for property tax. “The Minister can say whatever he wants about not taxing the public, but the issue with a real estate tax is typical of a tax that can get lost in translation. Property tax and real estate tax are the same. Property (real estate) tax is charged on immovable property—land and structures that are permanently attached to the ground such as a house, building, or land.
“When you enact a tax law that deals with real estate across the board, you cannot say for certain that people’s homes and other properties won’t be taxed. Take combination properties for example, what if I have an investment property that is part residential and part non-residential? What about people who use part of their home for AirBnB? You cannot use a real estate tax in its traditional form to go after only certain people, you are begging for court cases,” the MP said
He also took issue with a proposed 7.5% tax on sales which he accused the Minister of deliberately “muddying-up”. “His elucidation didn’t make any sense and provided no clarity about what this is. If this is some kind of sales tax to be applied to importers, then government would in one swipe increase the price of food and general groceries since the burden will be passed on to the consumer.
“If government actually meets with wholesalers they might understand that if an overall cargo order costs US $5,000, the freight will cost US $10,000. The rising price of food is reflected in these types of realities that wholesalers and retailers face. Government must be careful about how it directly makes people’s lives harder with taxation that indirectly affects them.
Another tax that the MP says must be clearly studied is a so-called sin tax on alcohol, sodas and tobacco. “The Minister of Finance would do well to meet with the business stakeholders who sell these items. It is too easy to say tax these items, but these companies employ hundreds of people and support major initiatives. A meeting with them could perhaps yield other suggestions that government didn’t think about,” MP Emmanuel said.
“It is obvious that the government didn’t meet with stakeholders and we all know they haven’t planned any consultations with the public, consumer organizations and so on. Government has no impact studies, no reports, nothing. The Minister of Finance came to Parliament with nothing after telling the public that he was with-holding comment on taxes until he comes to Parliament. The people are still unclear about property taxes and the Minister has still not indicated how the government’s plans mesh with that of the CFT and the Dutch government. What we have now are approaches that are completely out of touch with reality,” MP Emmanuel concluded.