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Bermudan Budget Announced

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Having been buffeted by the ill winds of the global financial crisis, Bermuda's Finance Minister Paula Cox told the legislature that it is now time for the island to "fortify" its tax base.

Outlining measures in the 2010/11 budget, Cox told the local assembly that:

“Having provided for social reinvestment in the community by granting tax concessions worth several tens of millions of dollars over the last several years, it is time now to refortify our tax base to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future.”

“Fairness, sustainability and a sharing of the burden will be the guiding principles of the planned changes to the tax base. The public sector spending that sustains the long-term health of the economy will not be sacrificed."

Cox explained that the government would instead introduce targetted fiscal measures to generate extra revenues while achieving growth, creating jobs, and providing support for distressed industry sectors.

While Cox’s budget will increase the tax burden, revenues of BMD1.05bn (USD1.05bn) - an increase of BMD124m on FY2009/10 – will still not be sufficient to balance the budget in FY2010/11, with a projected budget shortfall of BMD143m anticipated.

Explaining the need to increase the tax burden, Cox continued: “Sustainable public finance requires that we make every effort to live within our means and although the public may not wish to pay more for the increased public services they desire, it is incumbent that we have a tax model that does not perpetuate spending without an increase in the revenue stream. Anything less would not add up or be a sensible and prudent approach.”

“In 2010–2011, government proposes to increase payroll tax, foreign currency purchase tax, stamp duty on estates, vehicle licenses and implement the biennial review of government fees,” she announced.

According to the budget document, the standard rate of payroll tax, which was last adjusted in 2008, will be set at 16% in 2010–2011, an increase of 2%. There will also be a similar adjustment of two percentage points for the other rate categories. The yield from the revised rate structure for payroll tax is estimated at BMD427m in 2010–2011, or 40.3% of total revenues.

The rate of tax recoverable from employees, which was last amended ten years ago in the year 2000, will be set at 5.75% in 2010–2011.

A relief provision is being built into the payroll tax structure for retail establishments during the months of January, February and March when tax will be payable at a reduced level.

The salary cap for purposes of the payroll tax was last reviewed in 2007. It was scheduled for a biennial review last year but the review was postponed given the anticipated downturn in the economy. The salary cap will be re-set at BMD750,000 from April 1, 2010 and will continue to be subject to regular periodic reviews.

The restaurant and hotel sector will continue to receive relief from payroll tax. In addition, the taxi sector will now be exempt from payroll tax for the tax period beginning January 2010, following lobbying by affected parties. The relief will take the form of a rebate of payroll tax paid by taxi owners, taxi drivers and specified taxi dispatchers for that tax period. The payroll tax exemption for trainees, interns and apprentices is still in force.

The yield from customs duty in 2010–2011 is estimated at roughly BMD232m. Following consultation with the Retail Division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, the customs tariff will be amended to reduce the rate of duty on certain consumer electronic items such as televisions to bring the assessed duty in line with other consumer electronics. In addition, in an effort to provide greater relief to the retail sector, the government is to look to reduce pressure on businesses’ cash flows in relation to the upfront payment of customs duty on specified items.

The fuel concession for commercial fishermen also will be extended for an additional year to March 2012, and gasoline will be included in the concession. Previously the concession was for diesel fuel only.

Revenues from land tax are set to increase, to an estimated BMD50m in FY2010/11, due to an increase in annual rental values, which were revised in January 2010.

Government fees for an array of services provided to the public will be increased generally by 3% and motor vehicle licenses will be increased by 5%. The government has also announced that stamp duty on estates will be modified to increase the tax-take.

There will not be any increase in bus and ferry fares. Passenger tax, hotel occupancy tax and company license fees have also remained unchanged.