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Govt refuses to extend vehicle exemption for Dorian survivors

Dorian survivors on Grand Bahama and Abaco are upset after the government made the decision not to extend the exemption on vehicles.

The tax waiver on the importation of vehicles in areas devastated by Hurricane Dorian expired this week.

Prior to the December 31, 2020 deadline, the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) Order provided a tax waiver on the import of vehicles to replace those that were lost or damaged on Abaco, the Abaco Cays, Grand Bahama, Sweetings Cay, Deep Water Cay and Water Cay as a result of Hurricane Dorian.

Before he resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance amid a fraud scandal, Peter Turnquest said with certainty that the vehicle exemption would not be extended.

“I'm fairly comfortable saying the vehicles will not be extended," he said in November.

However, impacted residents and the business community continued to agitate for an extension on the duty-free import of replacement vehicles, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic - which resulted in unprecedented shutdowns and job losses - significantly set back recovery efforts.

However, last month, Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson announced that those survivors who did not purchase vehicles abroad before the deadline are out of luck.

“We recognise as well that vehicles that have been ordered, they ought to arrive in the country by the end of December. Accordingly, the government will honour the current tax concession on replacement vehicles provided that there is documentary evidence that has been shipped before December 31, 2020 and provided that it arrives by April 30 of 2021.”

All five members of parliament for Grand Bahama and both House representatives for Abaco belong to the governing party.

However, residents are in disbelief that none of them would speak up on their behalf and push for an extension considering thousands of Bahamians lost their jobs during the pandemic and could not afford to purchase replacement vehicles before the deadline.

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