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No New Taxes In Budget For Belize

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

16 March 2011

The Belizean Prime Minister has kept his pledge to introduce no new taxes on businesses or the public, with his 2011 Budget instead pushing for improved fiscal administration.

Introducing the Budget Statement and Estimates for the fiscal year 2011-12 on March 11, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dean Barrow said he "fully intends to honour" his pledge of no new taxes. He stressed that the Budget was constructed "to avoid the need for any tax increases that would place a burden on local businesses, employees or the general public". He said that the government was aware that, given the current difficult economic situation, "there is a limit to increasing taxes before we run the risk of encountering decreasing marginal returns; and, more importantly, before such taxes become a disincentive to investment and growth". As a result, in the upcoming financial year, the emphasis is to be on improved administration and stepped-up collection.

The government will focus on the work of a new compliance unit, recently established in the Department of General Sales Tax (the rate of GST was increased from 10% to 12.5% at the beginning of the 2010-11 tax year), and continue with the modernization of the Customs and Excise, which is currently piloting a new automated data system. Both these initiatives, it is believed, will bring sufficient efficiency gains. However, despite his promises relating to specifically domestic taxation, Barrow has introduced a relatively minor new tax on the oil sector. The rate of excise duty on locally produced petroleum will rise from BZD1 to BZD2 a barrel, a measure which is expected to bring in an additional BZD1.2m (USD618,000) a year. The Customs and Excise Duty Act will also be amended to provide for new rates on certain items as agreed under the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union and the Partial Scope Trade Agreement with Guatemala, changes designed to make the specified imported items cheaper for the Belizean consumer.

Barrow also released the country's estimates for the present and upcoming financial years. The revised total revenue estimates for 2010-11 are currently BZD739.8m, with the proposed estimates for 2011-12 at BZD843.6m. Tax revenue for 2011-12 sits at BZD650.4m, which is down from the approved figure of BZD703.4m. The figure for 2011-12 is BZD687.2m. In 2010, Belize saw a GDP growth of 2.4%, which Barrow argues "must be seen as stellar." He forecast a rate of 3% for 2011.

TAGS: individuals | tax | business | fiscal policy | gross domestic product (GDP) | budget | Belize | oil and gas

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