MARIGOT--Opposition party Rally, Responsibility, Success (Rassemblement Responsabilité Réussite (RRR)), headed by Territorial Councilman Alain Richardson, has come out in defence of St. Martin's small businesspersons, fishermen, market vendors and bus and taxi drivers and against the UP/UMP government's move to replace the professional tax.
The Territorial Council deliberated on the tax change on Thursday. The new system proposed is based on a dual mechanism (a licence tax and a levy of fixed assets).
Richardson said in a press release that this mechanism "favours greatly large companies that have for their operations large buildings and lands [...] and penalises greatly small and very small businesses," that represent close to 90 per cent of businesses in the Collectivité.
RRR presented several amendments during Thursday's session that were "retained, validated and adopted" by the council.
These amendments will now permit market vendors to benefit from a general rebate of 50 per cent, thus preventing the penalisation of this profession. Vendors would have seen their tax more than double if government's initial text had been adopted, whereas their yearly tax for 2011 is now limited to 200 euros.
Taxi and bus drivers are to benefit from a total exemption (as with the Professional Tax), while under the government's proposed text they would have been seriously taxed.
A further amendment is that all new businesses are to benefit from a total exemption for the first year, an exemption of the levy on fixed assets for the second year and a 50-per-cent rebate in the third year. Under the government's proposed text they would have been fully taxed from the beginning, according to RRR.
The Collectivité will collect a minimum amount of tax resources from the larger companies that, under the original proposal, would have seen their contributions substantially slashed.
The mechanism proposed by RRR now sets a minimum yearly contribution scale based on business size (level of yearly sales); this reintroduces more fiscal justice.
Richardson also tabled for RRR a tax-incentive modification for fishermen to aid by reducing fuel cost. He presented an amendment to the Gas Tax Law that would grant a total exemption from the government's fuel tax of six euro cents per litre for all registered fishermen.
The five-seat RRR sees its achievements for small business and defence of the Collectivité's financial interests as clear indications and proof of its effectiveness and commitment to serve the people and in line with the slogan, "Together, let's make it happen in 2011."
RRR "vehemently denounced" the fact that, over the Collectivité's four years of existence, the Council had been called to create, modify and adjust taxes, yet no substantial data, no simulations and no evaluation of the various scenarios had been presented or offered.
"This blind way of governing after four years of UP/UMP government is irresponsible and unacceptable," RRR said via Richardson. "How can the population have confidence in such a government? How can the tax payers understand and adhere when government cannot even evaluate the impact and justify its choices?"
The group said the government of President Frantz Gumbs was again bowing to the dictate of the French Tax Services in that, after imposing the suppression of the "Inhabitancy Tax" in 2009, was now doing the same with the Professional Tax behind fallacious excuses (of non-operational software to prepare assessments for 2011).
The group made it clear that, with the critical financial situation of the Collectivité, this suppression of 10 million euros of assessed tax, for an average yearly collected amount of five million euros, would be a fatal blow for the finances and even the autonomy of the Collectivité. It denounced this as "another violation" of the constitutional autonomy of the Collectivité that President Gumbs had "not even protested against."
RRR said that any new tax structure or mechanism destined to replace the Professional Tax had to guarantee yearly at least the equivalent resources in tax collected as the Professional Tax as well as fiscal justice within the business community, and had to be an incentive for business creation, development and growth and not another hurdle to discourage anyone from getting involved in business.