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Chamber to meet with stakeholders on plan to remove VAT from breadbasket items

Sumner: We are looking at whether the recommendations being put forward are ones we can support
Edison Sumner.

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) is planning to meet with stakeholders in the food retail sector regarding government’s plans to eliminate value-added tax (VAT) from breadbasket items.

CEO of the BCCEC Edison Sumner told Guardian Business yesterday that the government is engaged in consultation with food retailers regarding the plan to remove VAT from certain items. He said the BCCEC is also doing its part to gauge the temperature of food retailers, who seem to prefer the government reducing or removing import duties, which in their view would make more of an impact for the inner city communities the government’s plan is designed to help.

“We are looking at the issue regarding the list of breadbasket items and whether the recommendations being put forward are ones that we can support,” said Sumner.

While the government may appear to be moving rather quickly to enact this change to certain food items, Sumner said the government is carrying out its due diligence by meeting with stakeholders in the industry. Sumner added that his organization hopes to take its findings on the issue to government in order to deepen the engagement on the matter.

The Bahamas Federation of Retailers last Thursday dismissed government’s plans to make Over-the-Hill a tax-free zone and to remove VAT from breadbasket items, a policy it claims will not actually work to benefit the underprivileged.

A press release issued by the federation claims a tax-free zone will only benefit foreign enterprises, suggesting that is where the money will be spent to purchase supplies under the exemption.

And in the case of the removal of VAT, the federation suggests removing the tax from breadbasket items could cause the prices of items to increase. They call the government’s plan “bad policy”.

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