The government is hoping to recoup some of the $50 million in tax leakages from the private boating sector with the implementation of a new digital payment platform.
The SeaZPass, created by OMNI Financial Group in partnership with the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM), is programmed to collect charter fees from mega yachts and other charter operators in The Bahamas.
Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson said, now charter operators “have no excuse” to skip out on paying charter fees, an area government has traditionally seen a lot of revenue leakage.
“We have a convenient online solution for the payment of fees due to the government for their commercial operations in our waters. The potential revenue yield from charter operations is tremendous,” Thompson said after signing an agreement with OMNI for the platform.
“The Ministry of Finance estimated there is about $50 million in uncollected revenue from this boating segment and in keeping with the government’s commitment to strengthen tax collection and the enforcement for existing taxes, we have accelerated our digital transformation efforts to make this happen,” said Thompson. “The public-private partnership has led to a milestone achievement in an area that has long been in need of an upgrade.”
The announcement comes following a two-day charter/broker-only show held in West Palm Beach last month, a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Tourism and ABM to drive yacht bookings to The Bahamas.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the new platform is an added feature to increase boating traffic and economic activity to The Bahamas at a time when the country badly needs it.
“We have managed the spread of the coronavirus, and our travel policies create a safe and attractive environment, so charter operators are clamoring to send business to The Bahamas,” he said.
“Boats that would typically be cruising around Europe and other tourism hot spots are now parked around the East Coast and The Bahamas is the natural best place for them to get away.”
The Port Department is responsible for the issuing of charter licenses and the collection of charter fees. The department collected a total of $1.8 million in revenue for boating and marine licenses during the 2019/2020 fiscal year, according to the annual budget tabled in Parliament last June. The budget does not specify which licenses are generated from luxury water craft.
As of 2020, private yachts are charged an annual registration fee of $700 and charter yachts are charged $1,000 plus $.20 per ton.