Bryan Announces Extension of Tax Amnesty Program; Addresses Economic Concerns

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. gave updates on the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue Tax Amnesty Program at Tuesday’s press briefing. (Screenshot from Government House Facebook live stream)

During the first Government House weekly press briefing of 2024, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. expressed optimism for the new year and reassured residents about the state of the V.I. economy. Bryan also announced the extension of a tax amnesty program until the end of January.

On Tuesday, Bryan acknowledged and addressed concerns about the administration’s finances, including its ability to pay vendors across the territory. He explained that work is ongoing to secure government vendor funding until additional revenue is collected later this year during tax season. Bryan offered assurance that funds would be available for local vendors to continue operations and services across the islands.

Government Finances and Tax Amnesty Program Extension

“I want to take the opportunity to clarify some of the current financial challenges that the territory is facing, particularly regarding the timely payment to our government vendors,” Bryan said.

Bryan explained that government funding typically slows down before tax season each year, and government cash flow is currently limited. Financial options are being considered to obtain additional resources to bridge any gaps in incoming revenue in the short term. The governor said he is confident that economic issues will improve. More detailed information about the current state of the V.I. economy will be shared during the “2024 State of the Territory Address” on Jan. 22.

“I want to assure you that there is absolutely no cause for alarm,” Bryan said. “We fully expect our revenue collections will increase and align with our projects in the next month or two,” he continued.

“My team and I are actively working to address our immediate cash flow problems. More importantly, we are focusing on developing a long-term solution to stabilize our government expenses, especially when our government expenses outpace our revenue collection,” Bryan stated.

In addition to addressing concerns about revenue collection, Bryan announced an extension of a tax amnesty program through January, allowing residents to avoid penalties on overdue payments for income tax or the gross receipts tax.

“I’m announcing the extension of the penalty abatement program until Jan. 31, 2024. That’s a fancy way of saying, ‘We’re giving you a further tax holiday,’” Bryan said.

“This program applies to corporate and individual income taxes and gross receipts taxes. The program is a short-term incentive program, available to those taxpayers who are willing to meet the requirements of the program,” according to information available on the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue website. Residents can read more information about the program at BIR.VI.GOV, and individuals with questions can call the IRB office on St. Croix at 340-773-1040 or the IRB office on St. Thomas at 340-715-1040.

Community Updates

In separate community news, Bryan praised the V.I. community for a successful “Crucian Christmas Festival” that ran from Dec. 26 through Jan. 6. The governor noted that the celebration was one of the safest the territory has experienced, and he expressed his gratitude to agencies, including the Virgin Islands Police Department and the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

“This year’s festival surpassed people’s expectations,” Bryan said. “As we look forward to the year ahead, let’s continue to work to support each other, just like we do during [Crucian Christmas] Festival, to celebrate the unique spirit that makes the Virgin Islands an absolutely wonderful place to live, work, and visit,” Bryan said.

On a more somber note, Bryan lamented the closing of the St. Croix Avis newspaper after 180 years of operation. He praised the institution and encouraged residents to continue supporting local businesses, including news and media organizations.

“It is with a heavy heart that I address the closure of the St. Croix Avis, which has been a long-standing beacon of journalism in our community,” Bryan said. “The Avis has not just been a newspaper, but it is a part of our shared story, a testament to the enduring spirit of St. Croix and the broader Virgin Islands,” he continued.

“It is through our journalists’ diligent work that we stay informed, connected, and engaged about the issues that matter the most to our community, and the St. Croix Avis has been a shining example of this,” Bryan stated. “The closure of the St. Croix Avis is undoubtedly a significant change, but it is [also] an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to supporting local institutions that form the bedrock of our community,” he noted.

Getting Involved and Staying Connected in the USVI 

Regarding the local community, Bryan informed residents about a recently created government Facebook page to help Virgin Islanders remain updated on the projects the V.I. government is working on. He encouraged residents’ involvement and participation.

“We created a new Facebook page called What’s Happening GVI,” Bryan said. “Everything that is going on in government goes on that site, and you can see the myriad of things that we do on a daily basis,” he added.

Bryan concluded Tuesday’s press briefing with a short and final statement of optimism about the new year in the USVI.

“We are going to soar in 2024!” Bryan proclaimed.