The Daily Herald writes today, that Wolfgang Tooten, owner of Saba Divers Professional Dive Centre and Scout’s Place hotel and restaurant, attended with a private booth at the water sports Boat Fair “Das Boot” held in Düsseldorf, Germany, in January, where he received a strange visit from a Dutch Tax Department civil servant at their Saba booth.
In an interview on Saba’s increased exposure on the German tourism market, Tooten said he is happy with the resulted bookings from the fair and the increased interest shown by European tour operators, especially Nautilus Tauchreisen. The Tootens distributed generic Saba tourism information brochures on top of promoting their businesses. He credits the increased European interest in Saba to the splash made by the extensive coverage of the island’s offer on the www.tauchen.de website and in targeted electronic newsletters. He commends the Saba Tourism Committee for this investment.You can watch an interview of German Travel-TV with Wolfgang here.
The same water sports tourism outfit is following up with a visit in April for another article covering St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, an investment supported by the tour operators and the Tootens. The influential dive magazine Unterwasser plans to reprint the “tauchen” article before the Caribbean tourism high season in September. The positive results from the German market exposure triggered interest in allocating resources for exposure on the Scandinavian market.
Asked about follow-up on his public allegations concerning subjective implementation of the property tax on Saba, Tooten recounted his surprise that a Dutch Tax Department civil servant traveled all the way to Düsseldorf, showing-up at the Saba booth to indicate the tax department’s displeasure with Tooten’s choice to speak publicly with The Daily Herald concerning discriminatory taxation allegations. Tooten said, “When this guy showed up at the booth, I thought he was a tourist, not thinking someone from the tax department would come all the way from Holland to meet with me in Germany.
He told me that they are very upset, that “this was not the right thing to do, to go to the newspaper.” Tooten qualifies his statements saying that he doesn’t know if the civil servant was in Düsseldorf in his official capacity or as tourist, but notes that an intense discussion ensued. The civil servant informed Tooten that the Tax Department expects him to produce proof of his allegations that the Tax Department is incapable of implementing the property tax law without discrimination. Unless Tooten can produce statistics showing at least 50 per cent of properties were not assessed, the department will dismiss his allegations.
Tooten sees humour in this twist of requesting taxpayers to prove the incompetence of civil servants, instead of the tax department being obliged to share what should be public information concerning taxation practices and abilities. Tooten says the civil servant who approached him in Düsseldorf, alleged that the tax department had collected tax revenue from most businesses, but not private landlords.
Tooten says he fails to see the distinction between taxation of business properties versus those of landlords. The civil servant is said to have argued that landlords are lying, most having paid. Tooten wonders why goodstanding taxpayers would have reason to lie about not having paid taxes. In any case, Tooten argues this should only incentivise the Tax Department to immediately release public data on its property tax implementation performance.
I have to say that certain facts are not properly reported in this article. Things are a bit messed around with. For example the tourism committee did pay for a journalist from http://www.taucher.net to come to Saba and write an article. The response was very good and I comment the tourism committee for it’s vision to invest in one of the biggest online diver portals in Europe. We also received more promotion from them for FREE. The dive magazine “Unterwasser” is interested in publishing this generic article in one of their issues this year and this will cost Saba nothing as well. The journalist who is coming for “tauchen” another huge German dive magazine is paid privately from Saba Divers & Scout’s Place in cooperation with German tour operators.
Concerning the tax visit at the show, this is true but the conversation went a little bit different and the gentleman was quite friendly but said more or less what is reported in the article. Nevertheless, the question still remains why certain businesses have to pay, while others not. The foreign land and house owners who contribute basically nothing to the local economy or infrastructure are in my eyes are also “businesses” since they rent their property for good money to tourist, don’t invest in promotion, hardly leave money on the island and competing unfairly with established, honest and taxpaying businesses like hotels or vacation home rentals that pay their fair share. In my eyes, all businesses that have paid should get a credit for their payments until all taxes can be collected evenly by the tax department.
Moreover, there is also good news: Former State Secretary Weekers extended the reduction of the property tax for two more years. Thanks to the lobbying of the SBA & SMA this was possible. Also the deductions for private apartment owners are now 70.000US instead of 50.000US and the exemption for new investments and renovations of the property tax was extended from 5 to 10 years. I have to praise Mr. Weekers action since this helps at least a little bit to stimulate the economy. Most people we speak to are “only” civil servants and they have no leverage in making own decisions. What we have to do is to inform the Dutch politicians about injustice and wrong doings so they can change the laws. I have the feeling that slowly but surely some of them understand that it is in our common interest to help the local economies on Saba, Statia and Bonaire instead of taxing the population and businesses to high and destroy their ability to take care of themselves. I will definately monitor the developments and lobby for a healthy economy.
I usually appreciate Wolfgang’s comments, but I am afraid he did not do his research prior to his comment that foreign land and house owners contribute basically nothing to the local economy and infrastructure of Saba.
It is my understanding that foreign land and house owners pay the same % amount to the government as anyone else on Saba on the sale amount of a property at closing.
Upon purchase of a property, foreign house owners pay the market price to build on the property or to renovate the existing property and in turn, every single one in the construction trades on Saba benefits from the process.
So, I wonder where Wolfgang finds the basis for his comment that the foreign owners do not contribute a cent to the local economy. Foreign owners also make their purchases from local stores and patronize local restaurants, thus contributing further to the local infrastructure.
These same foreign buyers pay taxes on their property unless the property is their primary residence, and if they use their residence as a tourist rental they by law have to apply to the Chamber of Commerce for a business license and pay the tax as anyone else.
More info here?: