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Antigua and Barbuda’s government plans to implement a 2% increase in the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) to fund a rise in public sector salaries and other expenses in the coming year.
Finance Ministry officials emphasize the importance of improving tax collection to increase revenues as a percentage of the country’s economic output or GDP.
The ministry officials mentioned that the twin island states will still have the lowest tax burden in the sub-region and beyond despite this adjustment.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas stated that his government considers the implementation in phases
The current ratio is about 15%, but the aim is to reach 20%.
Minister Nicholas reassures that the less vulnerable population would feel little impact due to these changes.
“We do anticipate there will be little to no impact on basic food items, as indicated by the Prime Minister the government intends to protect the poor and vulnerable and all of those items that have been zero-rated,” Nicholas said.
Meantime, the Ministry of Finance has been given the responsibility of conducting a public education program to inform the citizens about the upcoming measures that will be implemented to close the government’s revenue gap.
The campaign is expected to be completed before the Budget Presentation by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on December 15th, 2023.
The government is considering the impact of these measures on residents and has assured that adequate provisions are in place to minimize the impact on the poor and vulnerable.
“We do anticipate that there will be little or no impact on the cost of basic food items as indicated by the prime minister in the Q&A session of parliament this week, where he indicated that the government is going to protect the poor and vulnerable and that those items that are zero-rated …recalling that these items were expanded during the pandemic when the government was unable to meet some of its expenses… we sought to protect that segment of the society. You will recall we had certain initiatives in place, for example, when there was an increase in the cost of fuel, we cushioned the impact of that and allowed for a voucher system, to ensure that those providing public transportation didn’t have any costs that they could pass on to consumers,” he said
The Financial Secretary, Rasona Davis-Crump, is set to lead a public education campaign to discuss the implications of the proposed tax measures.
This initiative aims to inform the public about the potential impact of the tax changes and encourage productive discussions on the matter.
With the guidance of the Financial Secretary, the public can gain a better understanding of the proposed tax measures and their significance in the larger context of the economy.