Please allow me space in your widely read newspaper to shed some light on the latest ploy by the Belize City Council to tax tour guides working outside the gates of the Fort Street Tourism Village. A few weeks ago personnel from out of the Revenue Department of the City Council met with tour operators who work outside the Tourism Village informing them that they will now be applying a peddler’s tax to all tour guides and operators who solicit tours in the zone. Their reason is that everyone who does any business on the city streets has to pay taxes to the Council. Because these are considered small businesses, they all must pay what the Council refers to as peddler’s license. All tour guides are now required to pay $25 per month if they want to continue to work within the FSTZ (Fort Street Tourism Zone).
As a tour operator who also works in the zone and will be affected, I believe this is an extreme measure which most of these people won’t be able to afford. The Council appears to be shoving this new policy down our throats without proper consultation and consideration. This apparently is being endorsed by the Belize Tourist Board (BTB).
There are several factors that appear questionable with the application of this new tax. There is this general impression that tour guides, especially those that work outside the gates of the FSTV, are generating substantial amount of income. It is for this reason I believe that the Council wants their share.
This sentiment is very misleading and unfounded. A peddler’s license is applied to small business owners who operate within Belize City. Most of these tour guides are not business owners but employees of the tour operators that work within the zone. The tour operators, who are the entrepreneurs, are already paying trade license to the Council since their businesses are registered in Belize City. Why are these employees being asked to pay additional peddler’s tax? This is unprecedented in the business sector.
If the City Council insists on these guides to pay this peddler’s license then they consider these people to be business owners. It is illegal for tour guides to solicit tours from the FSTZ without being under the umbrella of a tour operator. I’m sure this is not the intention of the Belize Tourism Board, as legally only tour operators are authorized to sell tours within the country of Belize. These operators are collecting a small fee from these guides allowing them to solicit and conduct tours from the zone.
This arrangement is important as the tourist will be covered by both passenger and public liability insurances when they decide to do tours here. Some of these operators have as many as 15 tour guides that work under their company. If each member is asked to pay $300.00 annually as peddler’s license to City Council, then one tour operator company will be paying as much as $4,500 yearly peddler’s tax, which is besides the trade license that this said operator is already paying to the City Council. This equation does not make sense.
This is the first time that any City Council administration has deemed it necessary to impose this tax on these tour guides since the inception of cruise tourism in Belize City. We believe the Council is barking up the wrong tree for revenues. Be reminded that small business and entrepreneurship are the backbone of any economy and to target this sector in the society with this harsh tax policy is adding to the already long line of the unemployment list.
I respectfully suggest to the Belize City Council to delay the implementation of this peddler’s license until there can be proper consultation with all those that will be affected and the issue can be ventilated properly to reach a common ground. At this present stage this tax is asking for too much from stakeholders at the bottom of the tourism industry especially at this critical and terrible state of the economy. We are not even getting a slice of the cruise tourism cake but only the crumbs from the slice. Should the crumbs be taxable as well? Your consideration will be highly regarded