The Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s Retail Division clarified its position regarding any proposed increases on personal import duties, calling for “an across the board, standardized duty rate of 25%” regardless of how they are imported.
Last month Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox said, “At the airport the rate is 35% however via other methods of import, the rates vary from 5% to 33.5%.
“Because of the inconsistent duty rates across methods of import, Government efforts to support local business are not as effective as intended. Therefore the Government will examine changes to duty rates for personal imports.”
Mailboxes Unlimited president Stephen Thomson has spoken out against additional duty increases, urging residents to contact their MPs, call talk shows or take other actions as a duty hike would be “destructive to both residents and Bermuda as a whole.”
A statement issued said, “The Chamber’s Retail Division is on record as having reached out to the Ministry of Finance, and in particular the Premier, in 2010 and again in 2011, for tax relief and other fiscal support to keep their doors open.
“Since that time the Retail Division of The Chamber of Commerce has through its membership, continued to lobby Government for an across the board, standardized duty rate of 25% for the importation of all personal goods, whether they are imported through the airport, the post office, a local courier, shipping agent or consolidator.”
Chamber EVP Joanne MacPhee explained further; “The Chamber’s Retail Division is supportive of a move to standardize the import duty charged on personal goods.
“Bermuda’s retail industry is in crisis and like many of our divisions they do need Government’s support if they are to survive in this harsh economic climate. The EEZ and newly branded BEDC are alongside others, doing their part to support local commerce, and we applaud them for that.
“We all know there are less people in Bermuda now then there was three years ago, and those who are here are spending less and shopping more online. This is all having a very direct and negative impact on local commerce, so yes something has to give if local retailers are to survive.”
“What that might look like has yet to be agreed. Perhaps this is the time to step back and look at the bigger picture and consider whether or not there is a viable alternative to taxation through import duties,” concluded Ms MacPhee.
The Chamber will be hosting an economics panel on Wednesday, January 25th, at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, where this and other issues facing the local economy will be discussed.