Wednesday, August 10, 2022
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Abaco Chamber of Commerce president wants a three year extension to the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) order because the Customs Department keeps charging them for duty when they should not be.
Daphne Degregory-Miaoulis, told Tribune Business yesterday that she had written to the Office of the Prime Minister at the end of July asking him for an extension to the SERZ order, but has not received an acknowledgement for her request to date.
She also said that things are still “out of whack” and Abaconians have not been given a chance to recover yet from 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. “Choices were having to be made on whether people should buy a car or fix their house?” she said.
“The one year maximum is just unrealistic for us to be able to accomplish a rebuild in that short period of time, that we’ve had.
“Now to add insult to injury, the Customs Department has already started ignoring the SERZ order and I understand from business importers they’re already charging VAT (Value Added Tax) and duty on things that were supposed to be VAT and duty free.”
Tribune Business contacted the Customs Department’s comptroller’s office on whether or not the policy had changed on the SERZ for Abaco and the office directed us to the officer in charge in Abaco, but he could not be contacted up to press time.
Ms Degregory-Miaoulis also said: “You just don’t know what’s happening until you get your entry that they’ve already imposed the taxes.
“All of this confusion is causing businesses on the island to reprice their goods to take into consideration the VAT and duty they are being charged, increasing the cost on an already depressed and strangled economy”.
Not wanting to start a fight with the Customs Department, Ms Degregory-Miaoulis has just been urging businesses to pay the VAT and customs duty in the meantime until she gets matters sorted out with the Ministry of Finance. She asked, however, “On what order had customs taken it upon themselves to do this?”
Ms Degregory-Miaoulis said: “We can fight the matter, because it is only three months out until it expires. But the issue is are they going to extend the SERZ? This is the bigger issue.
“This is a serious matter not just for Abaco but for Grand Bahama as well. This is a real serious issue. We have written a letter to the Prime Minister and have not gotten a response. Not even an acknowledgement.”