By Carlena Knight
The Tourism Accommodation Levy Bill, which will apply to hotels, guest houses, private villas and Airbnb rentals alike, was passed in the Lower House of Parliament this week.
The Act clears the way for a guest levy to be charged for each guest per night, on accommodations owned or operated by persons who earn an income from the tourism sector in Antigua and Barbuda.
The new charge, which had originally been scheduled to take effect from March 1 2020, will help to establish a Climate Resilience and Development Fund (CDR), the government said.
It has mandated charges of US$3 per guest per night for room rates up to US$150 per night, or US$5 per guest per night for room rates above US$150 per night.
However, children five years and under will be exempt from the tax.
The Commissioner of Inland Revenue shall notify a person who provides tourism accommodation to a guest of their payment period. Where that person is also registered under the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax Act, the payment period shall be the same as the taxable period of that person.
Within 21 days after the end of each payment period these persons are expected to file a document with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), which shows a return for the payment period, a statement of the number of rentals or services which occurred in the period, the revenue obtained from the rentals or services and any other additional information required by the Commissioner.
A payment reflecting the information in that document for the specific period should also be made.
Failure to keep records and accounts in accordance with this section will be deemed guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of EC$5,000, while a person who threatens, assaults, obstructs or interferes with an officer acting in the execution of his duty under this Act, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000, or to imprisonment for one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
There have been fears that the tax will increase the cost of vacationing in the country, thereby deterring would-be visitors, however the government hopes to use the extra money to finance projects which will build climate resilience, and provide a buffer for public finances in times of natural disasters.