Duty tariffs up before year’s end

The government on Wednesday voted into law a bill to increase tariffs on an array of dutiable items imported into Cayman.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Bush

Mr. Miller and Mr. Bush

The bill will mean people will pay more for cigarettes, alcohol, food, textiles and vehicles. among other items.

Once the bill is gazetted, expected to be done within the next one to two weeks, consumers can expect to see hikes in prices.

Premier McKeeva Bush pointed out that items that were duty-free would remain duty-free, but that rates on dutiable items were being increased by 2 per cent, as laid out in the budget.

Duty on beer will go from $1.50 to $1.65; on spirits from $10.50 per litre to $11.55; and on cigarettes from $52.50 per 1,000 to $105 per 1,000.

Duty on beef imports, currently 15 per cent, will increase to 17 per cent, while duty on vehicles valued up to $20,000 will increase by 2 per cent to 29.5 per cent.

The bill also includes an environmental tax on used vehicles valued at less than $12,000, which will offset the costs of disposing the vehicles.

Mr. Bush said the bill was necessary to ensure the Cayman Islands was compliant with the Public Management and Finance Law.

Independent Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller made a number of suggestions to amend the proposed tariffs, but none of his proposals were accepted because Mr. Bush said much consultation had already gone into the drafting of the bill and its amended tariffs with the parties that would be affected.

Mr. Miller also expressed concern that if the increases were not brought into effect immediately, the government’s coffers would not benefit from the Christmas spending spree.

‘Christmas is coming up and a lot of merchants in town have huge supplies in bonded warehouses… there will not be much left in those warehouses by January,’ he said.

He added: ‘With the holidays coming up, I believe the government will lose out on substantial revenues if the bill comes into effect later rather than sooner.’

Mr. Bush, however, assured him that steps would be taken to ensure the bill would come into effect immediately.

Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson clarified after the meeting that the tariffs would become effective upon the gazetting of the bill. First it needed to be signed by the Acting Governor Donnie Ebanks and then would have to be gazetted, and that would take a week or two.

Mr. Miller also requested that the government make medicinal and pharmaceutical goods duty-free. In the bill, duty on those items is 12 per cent. Instead, he suggested raising import duty on such items as Irish linen, silk and wool.

The government completed the first, second and third readings of five bills on Wednesday – the Customs Tariff (Amendment) Bill, the Public Recorder (Amendment) Bill, The Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Monetary Authority (Amendment) Bill and the Money Services (Amendment) Bill.

The Money Services Bill levies an annual fee on money services companies of $10,000 for each location of a branch, subsidiary, agency or representative office – an increase from $3,500 a year.

It also means that anyone transferring money overseas through a money services company will be charged a fee of 2 per cent per transaction, up to a maximum of $10.