By Elesha George
The government recently extended the number of years that companies must contribute a 10 percent tax on their net profits to the UWI Five Islands campus – and not everyone is happy about the decision.
The tax captures companies that are deemed profitable including financial institutions, telecommunications providers and the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC).
Julian Wilkins, Director of Government Relations at telecoms firm Digicel, told a group of tax experts and locally-based companies at a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday morning that the extension was unexpected.
“I don’t think we’re happy about the windfall tax,” he said.
“Nobody has actually had a discussion with the stakeholders on this. First of all, it was going to be for two years and suddenly temporary becomes permanent,” he added.
Wilkins is also concerned that not all companies, particularly other telecoms firms, are paying their tax contributions.
“It’s really unfair competition at the end of the day … we’re competing against operators that are not paying the windfall tax,” he said.
In response,Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department Ralph Warner said “most companies” are paying and in most cases they were happy to pay towards a social cause.
“There are about 50 companies that are captured across these sectors and, to be honest, from the feedback we receive from these taxpayers, it is the first time that I’m seeing that persons are willing to pay a tax.
“I guess they look at the social implication that having a university in Antigua and Barbuda can have on the population and the economy on a whole. So, the players that are paying these taxes do so willingly,” he added.
Warner said he is still not in receipt of the end date for the current extension.
In June, Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinted at making the windfall tax “indefinite” in order to continue to fund operations at the UWI Five Islands campus.