Anti-tax campaign steps up
(CNS): Organisers of the Facebook group opposed to government’s proposal to introduce a tax on expatriate workers' earnings are stepping up the campaign and offering government other solutions. The group’s founders say there have been numerous suggestions from the community about how the targeted $76 million surplus budget can be achieved and they intend to collate the suggestions and submit them all to government as soon as possible. The group will also be videoing and documenting public opinion on Friday evening, which will be posted on the Facebook page to give people a chance to voice their views.
Eden Hurlstone and Nick Pitman from the group Caymanians and Expats United Against Taxation, which now has close to 11,000 members, said that after some people were cut short during Wednesday evening’s meeting with the premier in West Bay and others were too intimidated to talk, they wanted to offer everyone the chance to record their views on how they feel about the discriminatory proposal to tax work-permit holders.
They were particularly concerned about a woman who was asking valid questions and opposing the tax who was cut short by the premier when he referred to her as a "little girl" and told her to give the microphone to someone else. The group has located her and she will be the first of the vox-pops the organisers plan to record.
“We will interview her today at Heroes Square at 5:15pm,” Pitman said. “We are inviting everyone who wants their questions or points recorded on this issue to come along. We plan to post them on the Facebook page and to give them to the media and the premier. We are also creating a United Cayman video.”
Pitman said many people were upset by the way the meeting went on Wednesday and felt the premier had shown a disregard for those who did not agree with him, but the world was changing and he pointed out that there were now many more ways for the people’s voices to be heard.
“The old methods are failing,” Pitman said as he pointed to the power of social media and the fact that the younger generation of Caymanians were waking up.
The group is now working hard in response to the premier’s invitation for people to submit solutions to come up with comprehensive and credible alternatives.
Speaking at his first public meeting on the proposed new tax on Wednesday evening, the premier said that if another source of revenue could be found, the government would not impose the so-called “community enhancement fee” as he said it was not a “desirable” option.
“If we can find an alternative that meets the revenue the United Kingdom says we must meet, then we have no problem,” he said, adding that the UK had imposed stringent parameters. He invited people to submit suggestions to the premier’s office for consideration, even though he has already sent the budget to London with the 10% expat tax on permit holders earning $36k per annum.
The Facebook group organisers plan to pull the alternatives together and present them to government on Monday before the evening’s rally, where these solutions will be discussed and displayed at the Heroes Square gathering.
“We need to approach this from as many angles as possible and present credible solutions on how government can raise the revenue it needs to meet the requirements set by the UK,” Hurlstone said. “Many solutions appear to have been posed and so far the premier has not explained why these numerous alternatives have all been rejected. If the community can demonstrate that there are other options, I feel the government will have to take note. It is quite clear from the reaction of the wider Cayman community that this discriminatory tax has virtually no support.”
The premier confirmed Wednesday that the tax will kick in at a rate of 10% on all work-permit holders earning $36,000 and above. Workers earning $35,999 will pay no tax but those that are salaried at $36,000 will pay $3,600 for the year, since the tax is not incremental.
Government has not yet answered all of the questions surrounding this new tax, which experts all say will be very difficult to collect, but what it has revealed so far is that it does not apply to any Caymanian or permanent resident. It is not clear, however, if it applies to key employees or those working in operation of the law. It does not apply to expat civil servants or any work-permit holder earning less than $36k.
It will be collected by the immigration department but government has not said when or how it will have to be paid. It will be on all remunerations earned by those who fall into the new tax-paying group, including bonuses and expenses. The legal requirement for employees and employers to pay 10% of salaries into a pension fund will now be removed. The premier claimed that eliminating this obligation would make the fee easier for employees to bear.
However, much of the opposition to the tax is not the actual issue of paying it. Most of those who oppose it are concerned about the inequality of the new direct tax and, in particular, the paradigm shift it represents for Cayman and the potential harm to the entire community.
Questions have also been raised about government failing to do the necessary research or analysis on the impact of the tax on the wider economy, the offshore sector or its sustainability, given it is targeting the country’s most transient group of workers.
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