Veteran entertainer wants relief from BRA
Don’t kill the Crop Over cash cow!
That’s the warning from veteran entertainer Red Plastic Bag to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) in light of its recent enforcement of Section 34(6) of the Value Added Tax Act (amended).
The legislation, which is currently being robustly enforced by BRA requires that “all promoters of public entertainment and every licensee or proprietor of places of public entertainment must register for VAT purposes even if their annual gross sales/receipts were less than $80,000”.
Government was also levying of Withholding Tax on the benefits accruing to foreign artistes who perform in Barbados, even for charitable events.
However, Bag has sounded a warning that the move was having a negative impact on the island’s premier festival, Crop Over, which according to Central Bank of Barbados estimates generated US$55 million within the economy plus its value added to the vital tourism sector.
He is therefore calling on the Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers and her team to have a second look at their revenue grabbing policies.
“You may have a cow that may not be not producing the amount of milk that you expect it to produce, so you decide to go for beef . . . [but] when the cow is gone, there is no cow, there is no milk,” cautioned Bag, adding “I think that is something they really have to look at because if we are unable to do what we do in the festival, then we can lose through the festival.”
In the face of dwindling sponsorship, the ten-time calypso monarch and 2011 Sweet Soca Monarch, who is also a leading spokesman for the Big Show, is particularly concerned about the impact on the BRA policy of charging VAT on complimentary tickets on calypso tents.
“It does impact on the tent and needs to be reviewed,” Bag said in an interview with Barbados TODAY this week.
He pointed out that while tent managers would naturally want to give something back to those who assist them in putting on their shows, at the moment it is “tough” to do so, in view of a BRA crackdown, which started last year.
“They need to look at the people within the festival who are working so hard to make ensure that we have a festival
that people can come to and enjoy.
“We must be in the position to do it [and] if we are not in a position to do it, it is going to hurt the festival,” he said.
While acknowledging that the need for Government to put more revenue into its coffers, he said there was also need for the authorities to recognize the sponsorship pool of funds was dwindling.
However, he was adamant that the show must go on since “there are many people who look forward to this festival – the people who sell snow cones, nuts and these things.
“If we are unable to create this hype around the festival, how are these people going to be able to survive?” he asked.
Insisting that legitimate festival stakeholders should be allowed to operate, he said: “The reality is that when you look at the tents especially, you don’t really make money from tents,” said Bag, arguing that “there is not one tent in Barbados that can say they were able to make any great amount of money.
“We are only charging 25 or 30 dollars and sometimes your overheads are nearly 20,000 dollars per night,” he pointed out, while noting that “people are not coming out to tents the same way they used to, so unless you get major sponsorship, there is no way you can survive.
“Years ago we used to do 25 to 27 shows. Nowadays, we can only do six . . . and if we don’t watch ourselves, we may be down to two pretty soon,” he told Barbados TODAY.
His comments come against the backdrop of a recent stakeholders meeting with the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley at which several recommendations were made to BRA to allow cultural practitioners and organizations to access incentives under the Cultural Industries Development Act.
The stakeholders have also called for at least three per cent of complimentary tickets to be exempted from VAT, and for a waiver of the 17.5 per cent VAT on all accreditation for members of the press, staff of the National Cultural Foundation etc. They also want the category Promoters of Public Entertainment to be revisited to make its application more equitable when compared to others in the economy and for the period May 1st – August 30th to be declared for the Crop Over Festival for taxation purposes.
In a letter to the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler dated June 15 this year, Lashley reported on the concerns of the stakeholders and called for a “win-win” solution to be found.
However, so far Government has been sticking to its tax collection mandate.