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Jamaica opposition critical of new bank tax

Saturday, April 19, 2014

KINGSTON—The main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has criticised the government over its introduction of a tax on people making withdrawals from their bank deposits. Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said the Portia Simpson-Miller government intends to raise J$6.6 billion (one Jamaica dollar = US$0.004 cents) in taxes during the fiscal year, As he led off debate on the J$539.3 billion national budget last Thursday.


The government says it intends to receive J$2.5 billion in revenue from the new levy on the use of ATMs/ABMs, electronic banking, point of sales, cheques and Internet transfers when the measure goes into effect, June 1. The new levy on withdrawals from deposit-taking institutions and security dealers will be calculated on a graduated rate system, with withdrawals less than one million being subjected to a 0.1 per cent tax.


Phillips said the measure was expected to bring in revenue estimated at J$2.25 million this fiscal year, and would provide the bulk of the revenue in new taxes. But JLP spokesman on Finance and Planning, Audley Shaw, said the government was joining those that have already raised the pockets of consumers in the country. He told reporters that the government had obviously decided that, following the banks’ controversial fees and charges, there was indeed more room “for attacking the pocket books” of the consumers.


“It is clear that the minister has now decided that it is not enough for the commercial banks themselves to be attacking customers with ever increasing charges. He is joining the raid. “He is giving company now to the commercial banks, joining in the raid on the pocketbooks of people who decide to go and use electronic banking or at points of sale, and cheques. Imagine cheques! We are complaining about commercial banks and now the government is adding its own tax,” said Shaw, a former finance minister.


Meanwhile, head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, Danny Roberts, said while the budget points to a positive trajectory in terms of macroeconomic indicators, the working class was going to feel much of the new taxes.


“The tax package is going to be felt by an already overtaxed working class, and unless there are radical restructuring to deal with the social agenda, the excellent efforts of the Minister in dealing with the objective criteria will be frustrated by the people’s perception as to whether the society is making an effort towards achieving equity,” he told the Gleaner newspaper. (CANA)


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