Minister of Finance Honourable Hiro Shigemoto says the Council of Ministers had a very good discussion with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday. The latter has stated its willingness to working along with Government in a number of areas including improving customer service.
The disturbing crime situation was another issue discussed along with the establishment of a national crime committee. The Minister of Justice could not be present for the meeting and a separate meeting will be scheduled between the Chamber of Commerce and the Minister with respect to the fight against crime.
Revamping of the tax system and the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce in this process was discussed at length.
Minister of Finance provided an update about the tax system reform process which the Government has embarked upon in order to make sure everybody is paying their fair share, besides moving away from one system of taxes to another which would be more beneficial to the country.
The Chamber was informed that the Tax Reform Committee has met with various stakeholders seeking their input in this very important process. Some stakeholders provided input while others thought they were to receive information but were not prepared to provide input.
The Tax Reform Committee has now compiled the information received and the next stage of the process will be to review the material that has been collected.
"Once all have had the time and opportunity to assess their area of the tax review, and have come up with the proposed changes, these will be put together in a plan of approach especially outlining the implementation per phase of the national tax system for country Sint Maarten.
"It is not so that the new national tax system will be changed abruptly on a particular date. The process to come to a new national tax system is a dynamic process which involves many disciplines (stakeholders internal and external) and requires a phased approach for implementation.
"More importantly the Tax Reform Committee has informed me that whatever mix of taxes is chosen, this will be done gradually, already starting with phasing out existing taxes through adaptations leading to eventual dissolution of that particular tax or shifts in the legislation to improve upon an existing tax taking many factors (such as but not limited to the economy, socio-economic situation, government’s income needs, investment climate, regional competitiveness, existing tax treaties, world financial and economic situation, etc) into consideration," the Hon. Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto explained on Thursday.
Minister Shigemoto says that as he receives updates from the Tax Reform Committee, this information will be shared with not only the Council of Ministers, Parliament, and the Chamber of Commerce, but with the general public as well. The main aim is transparency where this process is concerned.
A shift and/or change in fiscal legislation has to go through a lengthy process of advice from the various State High Councils and other entities such as Fiscal Affairs, Legal Affairs, Council of Ministers, Stakeholders, Council of Advice, and the Socio-Economic Council.
The Tax Reform Committee is also addressing the compliance issue by setting up a compliance team which will commence with its work by the beginning of next year.
Preparatory work for the compliance team will commence in the last quarter of 2011. It will work on ensuring that as many tax payers possible are paying their fair share into both the current and future tax system of country Sint Maarten.
The Minister of Finance also informed the Chamber of Commerce that changes to the existing turnover tax will also be looked into as this tax is not free of flaws and in its present state is not the most beneficial tax for the national economy.
Other topics discussed in the meeting with the Chamber of Commerce included the National Health Insurance system, the hospital, education, national economy, and cooperation between the North and South sides of the island.
The Chamber of Commerce is pushing for a Tri-partite committee to tackle problems which transcend our borders.