Remove VAT on funerals
This Easter 2016 has had more meaning for me than the past 67 years, largely I believe, because wisdom often comes with age, experience and maturity. This has led me to the conclusion that the hope for that better future which is inspired by the great message of Easter is futile without meaningful goal-directed action.
The unlimited words, statements and pledges of support for vulnerable sectors and sub-sectors of our communities are seemingly vacuous especially when it becomes clear that they were made purely for public consumption and not necessarily with any appreciable level of sincerity.
From here on, I will be initiating advocacy on behalf of these members of society who, in spite of genuine need, are forced to suffer in silence while the rest of us behave as if all is ‘sweetness and light’ in this ‘God-fearing Christian society’.
A growing number of bereaved families readily come to mind. These persons are predominantly poor or relatively cash-strapped whose loved ones may have died after a medium term or prolonged illness which has drained to a significant extent the family savings.
In other cases, it could be the sudden death of the principal bread winner of a household, leaving wife/partner and children either of school age or unemployed without a viable financial lifeline. Unresolved debt, mortgage payments, commitments to financial institutions and other possible scenarios which can only add to the emotional shock, trauma and stress occasioned by the loss of a loved one.
Irrespective of the circumstances or the extent of the crisis which now envelopes families, it is incumbent on them to organize a dignified funeral preceding the burial of their loved ones. With the help of family members, friends, the funeral homes and their dedicated and professional staff, ceremonies consistent with the wishes of the deceased’s religion beliefs, culture and financial resources are organized and executed.
After the solemn and dignified services including the tributes, hymn singing, sermons, hugs and kisses, the crowds depart leaving families to grapple with their new financial reality. This, in most cases, adds to the weight of the bereavement process.
I have long held the view that the members of both sides of our Parliament (that is, Democratic Labour Party and Barbados Labour Party), have not been as sensitive to the plight of bereaved families as they ought to be based on the fact that a 17.5 per cent Valued Added Tax (VAT) adds to the burden of this vulnerable group of Barbadians.
It would be a very humane gesture if our politicians, who see attendance at funerals as a ‘must-do’ event in their respective constituencies, close ranks in support of a growing number of constituents who very often barely manage to scrape together enough money to bury their loved ones only to be “bushed whacked” by the 17.5 per cent VAT on funerals.
This can range from $1 700 in taxes for a very modest $10 000 funeral to $2 600 for a more medium range $15 000 one. This imposition has been a source of galling agitation for thousands of Barbadians yearly who feel that it is grossly unconscionable, if not totally unjust, to impose a tax on grieving relatives in relation to the funeral costs of a loved one who, throughout his/her working life, faithfully paid their fair share of taxes.
I am writing through this medium to urge that members of both houses of Parliament move with haste to support the abolition of this burdensome tax on funerals.
(George Griffith, director in Lyndhurst Funeral Home and social development advocate)