Business owners across Belize are feeling the COVID-19 pandemic financial pinch, which has paralyzed economies around the world. With the tourism industry all but gone on Ambergris Caye, many islanders who are now without jobs are getting assistance with donated meals and groceries. At the same time, other employers have kept their staff on payroll, despite the absence of business. This expense is taking a toll, and in order to continue doing so, stakeholders on the island are appealing to the Government of Belize (GOB) for tax relief. In a letter from members of the San Pedro Branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (SP BTIA) addressed to Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow, they proposed that they are allowed to apply General Sales Tax (GST) and business taxes to pay their staff instead of giving the collected funds to the GOB, which are scheduled to be paid to the government on April 15, 2020.

In the letter dated April 9th, the petition to obtain economic mitigation from taxes is expected to not only help businesses meet their payroll but essentially save the government monies that could be used as unemployment benefits. The SP BTIA points out that by keeping people on a salary, the individuals donít need government assistance while contributing to the local economy. The letter provides examples of monies collected during March 2020 for GST payment. One business owner has collected $5,500 BZ of GST. This business, which is closed for the foreseeable future, has 14 employees. The employees received their paid vacation time, and their earnings were reduced by half. By not laying them off, these employees do not depend on the governmentís assistance of $75 BZ per week because they continue to be employed. With their flow of income, these people continue to purchase items at the local stores, pay utility bills and rent, which results in local economic stimulation.

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