The Dutch Ministry of Finance laments the walk-out action of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and says it didn’t deliberately hold back the 2011 tax figures in a meeting with the island delegations in The Hague last Thursday.
A spokesperson of the Ministry stated in answers posed by the media that civil servants couldn’t provide figures of the 2011 revenues of taxes that were levied by the Tax Department on the three islands because the data was simply not yet available. “They cannot ask the impossible.”
Commissioners Burney Elhage of Bonaire, Koos Sneek of St. Eustatius and Chris Johnson of Saba walked out of the meeting at the Ministry of Finance because they felt disrespected by the Dutch civil servants. The Commissioners had demanded the total figure of taxes that were collected on their islands in 2011.
Member of the Second Chamber Ed Groot of the Labour Party PvdA on Wednesday posed questions to State Secretary of Finance Frans Weekers about the incident with the island delegations. Groot wanted to know whether it was true that the Finance Ministry refused to provide information to the islands.
The Ministry’s spokesperson has stated that it wasn’t a matter of refusing to give the figures. The Ministry was not aware of statements by officials of the Tax Department of the Caribbean Netherlands that the figures were available. “That has to be a misunderstanding.” The figures of the 2011 wage and income tax revenues could not have been available because the income tax assessments still have to be done, explained the spokesperson. What is known is the total assessment figure of the social insurance premiums (AOV/ AVV and the income dependent employee part of the health care insurance premiums.
To keep things simple and to limit administrative burden and execution cost, it was decided to let the Tax Department Caribbean Netherlands assess all income based levies. “Consequently, these specific components of that integrated levy cannot be calculated without further analysis of for example the wage tax cards and the levy data income tax. At this moment that analysis cannot take place because the necessary assessment figures are still lacking,” stated the spokesperson.
State Secretary Weekers is lamenting the premature departure of the Commissioners at the meeting, said the spokesperson. “He is constructively involved with the islands. We understand that the Commissioners want insight into the tax figures. So do we.”
Member of Parliament Groot, who is a member of the Permanent Committee for Finance, asked the State Secretary for the 2011 figures, as well as those of 2009 and 2010. He asked Weekers to indicate the rough estimates if the final figures over 2011 weren’t available. He also asked the projected tax revenues for 2011. Furthermore, Groot asked Weekers to indicate the differences between the islands in levying taxes.
The Ministry promised that it would stick to the agreement with the islands that the surplus of taxes collected above the level of tax revenues under the former Antillean fiscal system would go back to the islands in the form of lower national taxes. This agreement only counts for national taxes and not social insurance premiums and employers insurance premiums.
National Representative for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) Wilbert Stolte referred to higher tax revenues in his second progress report. “Preliminary figures show that the tax revenues in 2011 amply surpassed the estimated revenues,” he stated in the report which was sent to the Second Chamber earlier this week.
Asked about the status of the property tax (vastgoedbelasting), the spokesperson said that experts were busy creating a basic administration with properties that would resort under this levy. The value of the properties still has to be determined.