NAf. 19 million more ToT collected than budgeted in St. Maarten

THURSDAY 31 MAY 2012, PHILIPSBURG--Some NAf. 19 million more in Turnover Tax (ToT) has been collected in the first four months of the year than was estimated in the 2012 budget, new Finance Minister Roland Tuitt said at his first Council of Ministers press conference on Wednesday.

ToT collection for the year is expected to bring in a total of NAf. 123,304,752 as per the 2012 budget. The additional ToT collection was stated as a possibility by former finance minister Hiro Shigemoto in the past months.

Tuitt said, "Good news that we received is that the Turnover Tax has rendered more than we had budgeted. ... That will be used to cover these deficits that are now in the budget of 2012. We hope that by next week we would have solutions."

To that end, the Finance Ministry is "working on repairing" a shortfall of NAf. 21 million in the budget. That amount was projected to be collected in income tax from non-resident condo owners who rent their properties. The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT has raised concerns about the feasibility of collecting the so called "back rent."

Not taken up in the 2012 budget is the payment of the indexation of salaries (cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)) for 2010. The COLA payment has to be taken up in a budget amendment that is being prepared for approval by Parliament.

The formulation of a new method of handling the COLA payment annually, as already announced by Shigemoto, is also being worked on, according to Tuitt.

Some NAf. 17 million is needed to cover the COLA payment. The minister is working on a cash flow projection to determine whether it can be paid. "If not, we will have to see how we deal with it."

Tuitt has written to the CFT requesting three weeks to gather the information and prepare the budget amendments to deal with filling the gaps.

"If we don't do this, then we will be in the same boat as Curaçao," he said, referring to the pending instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers to Curaçao's government about its finances. "This is why we asked for an extension of three weeks. Within those three weeks, we will come up with a solution for these problems."

Tuitt has requested that all ministries submit any amendments they would like to their budgets so that all changes may be dealt with as soon as possible.

Dealing with the annual financial statements, Tuitt said the 2010 report should be ready soon. The Government Accountants Bureau SOAB is finalising its work on the report.

Government is preparing the 2011 financial statement to meet the deadline of September 1 for submission to Parliament.

Adding to the discussion, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said government would be paying vacation allowance this year "notwithstanding its financial situation."

Wescot-Williams said government was "committed to paying" the COLA, vacation allowance and the periodic salary increase for civil servants that is now due.