New Act imposes stringent measures on hotels

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The government plans to go after hoteliers who fail to pay their fair share of taxes, when it implements the Tax Administration Procedure Act (TAPA).
“We will make sure it would be a criminal offence to violate the tax code,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said in Parliament yesterday as he disclosed that government will introduce legislation in which leading business principals including hoteliers could be jailed for tax evasion.
“So even the officials … [and] the directors who participate in this type of manipulation they must know that after we pass this TAPA they are going to jail,” the prime minister said as he noted that currently “there is no fear in the system”.
The new bill will be brought to parliament later this year, the Prime Minister said yesterday while debating the Investment Authority Bill 2017, which was passed in parliament. Stressing that the laws must be strengthened so that those found guilty of tax evasion will serve time in prison, for weakening the economy, through tax manipulation, the prime minister said: “You will have an economy that is doing well and then you will have a government that can’t meet its obligations.”
However, hotelier Ian Fraser said TAPAs are only as good as the supportive legislative framework.
The UK citizen who operates Coco Bay and Non-Such Bay Resort said taxing the sector is a very difficult area to manage.
He said it is a case of whether or not the resources are there to put things in place, particularly in a small economy like Antigua & Barbuda.
He added there must be a leveling of the playing field for all property owners.
“It can’t be fair that a particular investor gets a different set of concessions from other investors. I understand the political and emotional difficulties in maintaining a level playing field but what we need is something simple, straight forward and transparent that will help us get over the problem of not having enough resources,” Fraser said.
During his contribution in parliament yesterday, the prime minister appealed to the management of Sandals Grande to further reduce their three-month closure period to six weeks.
Initially, Sandals said it was closing the hotel for five months to undertake maintenance work, a move that upset the government. The hotel then said the closure would be for three months.
In a press release, the resort reaffirmed its commitment to the country as it seeks to renovate the property to maintain its title of World’s Best, a title it has held for 23 consecutive years.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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