Businesses urge removal of duties, lowering of GCT on digital devices
An elementary school student working at home. (Photo: iStock)
Influential private sector and civil society groups are urging the Government of Jamaica to remove all duties and taxes on mobile and digital equipment, mobile phones, software, tablets, computers and related accessories, peripherals and other digital devices for a period of at least 24 months.
The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association (JMEA), the Business Process Outsourcing Industry of Jamaica (BPIAJ), the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the Council of Voluntary and Social Services (CVSS) and the MSME Alliance in a press release stated that their call is "an urgent response" to the acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic locally.
"The global pandemic has made internet connectivity as critical to modern life as electricity and water. Without connectivity, in this time of COVID, schools across the Island are being forced to re-open digitally without the means for their students to learn in that format," the release said.
"Digital devices have now become indispensable, and we need to address with urgency the inequality in connectivity. Those who can afford it will already have purchased the equipment they need for the new school year, if not long before, leaving the rest behind," the release added.
According to the private sector and civil society bodies, the pandemic has also revealed just how far behind Jamaica is in making the island a digital economy.
"Jamaica needs to become the leader in digital transformation in the Latin American and Caribbean region, which can only occur if all our stakeholders have access to the digital tools needed to become a knowledge-driven economy," the groups stated, adding "The tax relief outlined will provide concrete help to numerous small entrepreneurs, who unlike most larger companies, may not have sufficient funds to buy the equipment they need to adapt to our new digital reality."
The groups also noted that the Government of Trinidad & Tobago recently announced the measure in its budget, with no sunset date, "as a bold tangible step to achieve their digital agenda and diversify their economy, and specifically to assist with the devices needed for remote schooling."
In its commentary on the measure in the twin island republic, Price Waterhouse Trinidad noted that while normally relief is better addressed outside the tax regime, in this instance “immediate relief is critical in a time of crisis” and this measure “alleviates the administrative and logistical burden of reaching all vulnerable ones in our society”.