· BHTA, Ministry of Finance Welcome Ministry of Tourism Support for VAT Readiness Training
· Family Island Sessions Reinforce Industry Concerns On Need to Address Prepaid Business and Foreign Dive and Charter Operator Concerns
· Hotel and Restaurant Participants in All Sessions Wish to See VAT Exclusive Pricing Permitted on Menus with Notation That VAT Will Be Applied
· Bahamas Property Management Firms Fear More Vacation Home Rentals Will Escape Taxes; Firms to Be Impacted Call for Level Playing Field
VAT readiness training for the tourism industry moved into the Family Islands last week as nearly 100 participants attended the intensive VAT Readiness and Registration workshops on Abaco and Exuma being conducted by the Ministry of Finance and facilitated by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism.
As the sessions roll out into all the major Family Islands over the next several weeks, the Ministry of Tourism has teamed up with BHTA and the Ministry of Finance to assist in reaching as many tourism-related businesses as possible.
“We are encouraged by the level of participation from the industry thus far. We are seeing participation by hotels of all types and sizes, bone fish lodges, attractions, marinas, tour operators, restaurants, vacation home management companies, and large scale vendors. The sessions are tailored to the tourism industry and the types of questions and recommendations which are surfacing underscore the value of facilitating training directed specifically to our industry.” according to BHTA President Stuart Bowe.
During last week’s sessions in Abaco and Exuma attendees were provided with a clear and basic understanding of how VAT works, pointing to the required recordkeeping and accounting practices and charging and pricing considerations. Pro forma examples specific to the tourism industry were provided to illustrate how input and output VAT reconcile and show the difference in costing with the elimination of CIF and the replacement of FOB on imports affective January 1, 2015.
The Ministry of Finance representative carefully walked attendees thru the process of pricing, offsetting, and the filing of VAT returns. Businesses stepped thru the VAT registration process with some actually registering during the training sessions.
During the sessions, concerns were raised about several issues which BHTA has been seeking to resolve with the Ministry of Finance. These include how Promotion Board levies are treated , the treatment of business which is prepaid now but delivered after January 1, 2015, and maintaining the status quo for self-supply whereby taxes are not applicable to the provision of complimentary rooms and services for goodwill and marketing support. As it presently stands, VAT be applicable to the fair market value of these donated services.
Abaco businesses in particular expressed concerns about seeking an equitable arrangement between foreign and domestic charter boat and dive operators. Domestic operators are disadvantaged, paying considerably higher taxes than the 4% which is supposed to be assessed against foreign operators who contribute significantly less to the local economy than the foreign operators. Presently, there is lax enforcement on the collection of the 4%. BHTA is calling for equal treatment and enforcement.
During the Abaco sessions the issue of how vacation rental homes are treated also surfaced. A growing number of visitors to the Family Islands are staying in rented vacation homes. Attending property management firms which presently handle several hundred homes indicated that the hotel room tax is paid through their management arrangement. With VAT intending to be levied on all the services provided by the property management firms, plus VAT being assessed on the rentals, the firms expressed great concern that more foreign homeowners will opt to book their short-term rentals through sources outside of The Bahamas to escape paying VAT. The Abaco Chamber of Commerce committed at the session to work with the management firms to articulate the problem and offer solutions which will be shared with the Ministry of Finance, BHTA and the Ministry of Tourism.
At all of the training sessions held thus far hotel and restaurant operators have expressed concern about the all-inclusive pricing requirement. While some of this has been addressed whereby businesses will be permitted to conduct VAT exclusive pricing for sales and advertising purposes provided they asterisk or clearly note that the advertised price does not include VAT, the primary concern being expressed relates to the posting of menu prices.
This requires the added expense of printing new menus, adjusting point-of-sales systems, and it creates confusion for the customer when they are provided a receipt in which a mandatory gratuity is posted exclusive of VAT. While the businesses agree with the requirement that all menus and sales receipts must indicate that a 7.5% VAT applies to the cost, they’ve argued that the requirement can still be met with the posting of notations on all menus similar to that which is required for advertising purposes, indicating that VAT will be added to the posted price.
Thus far six tourism-related VAT training sessions have been held throughout the country attracting nearly 400 attendees. Sessions this week are being conducted on Long Island and Cat Island. Tourism-related businesses wishing to attend the sessions should contact BHTA at 502-4200.
Caption: Tourism-related businesses in the Family Islands attend VAT training sessions being conducted by the Ministry of Finance and the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism.