The House of Assembly on Wednesday has written off US$1,395,658.19 in business license fee penalties spanning over four years, a move that Minister of Finance Hon. E. Jay Saunders referred to as ‘Nailing to the Cross’.
Piloting the bill entitled the Business Licensing (Fees and Penalties) (Amnesty) Bill 2022, Saunders referred to Apostle Paul, who, in Colossians 2:14, spoke of blotting out sins and nailing them to the cross. He said his administration, by erasing the business license fee penalties, was making a similar gesture to business owners in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” he quoted, adding, “following Paul’s words, our good government is going to take some debt out of the way and nail it to the cross for TCI businesses.”
He continued: “Speaking specifically to the area of business licenses, total arrears, as at February 2022, for all Business licenses was $2,932,036.04. Included in this figure are Penalties of $1,395,658.19, and this bill today seeks to write that off.”
He said the penalties in total spanned 2018 to 2021. He said in 2018 total penalties was US$42,240.00. in 2019 it was US$222,816.66. in 2020 =the sum for that year was US$384,570.03. In 2021 it was US$746,031.50, reaching a grand total of US$1,395,658.19.
The specific write-off period is from April 1, 2018 – to March 31, 2022.
He said the penalties write-off will cover all major islands, which was US$149,858.55 for Grand Turk, US$33,343.00 for North Caicos, US, $7,126.00 for Middle Caicos, US$1,188,865.14 for Providenciales, US$3,853.50 for Salt Cay, and for South Caicos - $12,612.00.
Saunders, prior to the passage of the bill, addressing the speaker directly, said the speaker would well be aware that removing such debt from over the heads of the local business owners would cause them to sleep better at nights.
"Mr. Speaker, you’re a businessman, and so I am sure that you’re aware there is a burden that comes with insurmountable debt, particularly during times of financial struggles. As such, it is imperative that this honorable House approve the write off of these debts today and give our TCI businesses the opportunity to start afresh. And Mr. Speaker, believe me when I say this: ‘With 14 to one, this Bill getting done’,” he said.
The finance minister noted though that in order to qualify for the penalty write-off, businesses must bring their business license up to date, noting that the Progressive National Party (PNP) Administration would readily assist those who were experiencing difficulties in complying, through a payment plan.
“To qualify for the Business License Fees Penalties write-off, businesses will have to bring current their license fees within three months. If there are businesses that are unable to do so, this caring Government of the people, will allow them the flexibility to pay up their outstanding license fees over time through payment plans with TCIG,” he said.