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Bank charges, or “business tax”?

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 4, 2019– In October 2016, the Central Bank of Belize announced the implementation of a new APSSS system that would facilitate a quicker means of processing banking transactions. This Automated Payment and Security Settlement System (APSSS) was implemented to connect all local banks and allow customers to make electronic payments anywhere in Belize, between various local banks.

The system features Electronic Funds Transfers (ETF’s), Instant Funds Transfers (IFT’s), Real-time Gross Settlements (RTGS’s) and so forth.

At the time, the announcement of this new banking tool was met with much positive feedback from the general public.

Three years later, however, the Central Bank has announced that they have been incurring the costs to process these transactions and will now be requiring contributions from the commercial banks in order to continue with the services as per usual.

New fees being requested by the Central Bank to the local institutions are as follows: EFT’s of over $50,000 are $3.50 per transaction and EFT’s under $50,000 are $0.25. IFT’s are $.50 per payment, and processing of checks up to $50,000 are priced at $1.00 per check.

Checks above $50,000 but below $100,000 are priced at $50.00 per check and checks above $100,000 are priced at $100.00 per check. These new fees are now effective as of Monday, July 1, but have led to the commercial banks levying their own fees on customers.

These new fees have resulted in additional charges on all the aforementioned transactions, and especially on checks being written from one bank and being paid to an account at another banking institution. This could pose issues for smaller businesses who rely on these transfers to ensure their day-to-day operations run smoothly.

Also, corporations which rely heavily on these processes to conduct employee payments will take on an array of additional costs which could subsequently lead to delays in payment of their staff members.

While Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceno, has publicly classified the act as a passive means by which the government is taxing businesses, entrepreneurs are now having to consider their options for conducting transactions in a more cost-efficient manner.

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