The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce supports the actions of the public sector for its recent stance addressing budget shortfalls.
“We need to approach our current situation with a more long term vision and not just a quick fix,” said Chamber President Richard Berry.
The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce strongly disagrees that the key to seeing us through this financial crisis is to place additional taxes such as the proposed Gross Receipts increase on the private sector.
Raising taxes will put additional burden on the private sector, which in most cases has taken extraordinary efforts such as reduction in staffing, reduction in hours, and delay in capital investments just to keep their heads above water. Higher energy costs and additional increases in taxes will force many businesses to close resulting in a decrease in total taxes collected for the territory.
“This crisis makes it clear that everyone in our community, both private and public sector, must change their ‘business as usual’ mentality,” said Berry. “The private sector, which is already under enormous strain, has been asked to absorb a 12.5 percent increase in gross receipts which we have done. We contend that businesses that are not following the law should be held accountable.”
“Lack of enforcement only adds to frustration of businesses that pay their fair share,” said the chamber president. “Off island businesses enjoy a 4.5 percent advantage as they sell goods in our territory without having to pay local gross receipts. Millions of dollars in revenue to the government coffers, as well as jobs for our people, are lost due to our government’s failure to close this loophole on gross receipt taxes.”
If the public sector keeps looking to increase taxes on businesses that are domiciled in the territory, they will drive all of us out of the territory. Who will then pay these onerous taxes? The most dangerous part of the public sector’s policy is that it only drives up the already sky high cost of living in the territory and it takes hard earned dollars out of pockets of the local Virgin Islanders.
The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce strongly urged all publicly-elected officials to look at all others options to reduce expenses and increase collections of current taxes before putting more pressure on the private sector.
The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce is ready to work with the Executive and Legislative branches of government to move the territory forward. However it must be in a fair and equitable way which does not put added pressure on any one segment of the population.
“We look forward to moving our territory forward together in the days and weeks ahead,” said Berry.