By Marion Ali
The Belize City Council will reduce trade license fees by as much as 50 percent in some cases, following an almost two-year-long collaboration with the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) to make the fees more realistic for businesses, especially those that don’t produce on a large scale.
A task force set up to streamline a new formula for trade licenses has completed its work and has concluded that CitCo’s current tax structure is excessive, primarily for businesses that conduct small-scale transactions, or are located in areas that are not business zones.
But while the new formula makes the taxes more realistic for those business owners, it also doubles as an incentive for businesses that do large scale transactions.
Mayor Darrell Bradley explained that the reduction from 25 to 12.5 percent in taxes will not necessarily mean a reduction in revenues for the Council because it will encourage more people to engage in business.
“What we’re looking at, in terms of our rationale, is volume rather than taxing the people who currently pay.
“One of the things we are eagerly trying to advance is the development of the Northern (Philip Goldson) Highway. If you go along the Northern Highway, you’re going to see the amount of businesses going up there.
“[If] you want to promote business development in Belize City you have to be reasonable. You can’t be over-taxing people, and 25 percent of your annual rental value is unsustainable for a city that’s competing with Ladyville and Hattieville, which have no property taxes and no trade license”, the Mayor said this week.
The Council faced harsh criticisms from a cross-section of the business community soon after it took over municipal government in 2012 and, under Mayor Bradley, revamped the trade license fees, resulting in significant increases in trade license costs for some businesses.
Bradley said that there will also be an incentive for micro-businesses, which will be a flat rate charged, but a definitive time was not given on how soon business owners will begin to see the reduction in costs.