Let’s make doing business easy and simple.
The Ministry of Finance, Investment and Trade is currently carrying out a consultation on the proposed amendments to the business license ordinance and regulations. I think this is a great initiative and I encourage all of you to read the proposal and respond by October 31st, 2023.
Here is my review of the proposed amendments.
Re-establishment of the Business Licensing Board
One of the proposed amendments is the re-establishment of the Business Licensing Board. The Board will meet the first week of every month.
I don’t think we need to re-establish a Business Licensing Board, especially if the Board is going to meet just once a month. This will delay the issuance of licenses. I am quite sure every week, there are applications for a business licence and based on this proposal, applicants will have to wait for a month before they know the status of their applications. Some applications can be very time sensitive.
I think the Inland Revenue Department should have a dedicated team to process the business licence applications and recommend their findings to the Permanent Secretary. Perhaps, that is what is being done now because quite frankly, I think the Inland Revenue Department is doing a very good job in the issuance of business licenses.
If a Board is re-established, the Board will have to meet more than once a month to avoid the length of time it will take to process an application. Many years ago, there used to be a Business Licensing Board and it was discontinued so why should we re-reestablished it.
The proposal is “an applicant aggrieved by a decision of the Board may appeal to the Minister of Finance.”
I am not sure what the current process is for appeals, however, I do like the fact that there is an opportunity for applicants to appeal to the Minister. I support this.
The proposal is that work permit holders who are applying for business licenses must declare if they are hiring employees who will be on a work permit.
First, as I mentioned at the public consultation meeting that was held on October 20th, I think the proposal should state self employed work permit holders as my understanding is regular work permit holders are not allowed to have a business. I may be wrong.
Secondly, I think declaring if you are hiring work permit holders should be an immigration and labour issue. A self-employed work permit holder can easily say they do not intend to hire work permit holders to secure a business licence and then turn around and apply for a work permit. I am not sure I understand this request.
Will we ask the same requirement for Turks and Caicos Islanders who are applying for a business license?
The thing is a request for a work permit holder to work should only take place after an employer cannot find a Turks and Caicos Islander to do the job. More than likely, given that a low percentage of Turks and Caicos Islanders are in the workforce, all employers may have to have a work permit holder.
Other proposed amendments
There is some fronting taking place in Turks and Caicos. One of the proposals is to create a new category that is 100% owned. Another one is to increase the requirement for a Turks and Caicos Islander to have a minimum of two thirds majority shareholder.
I have mixed feelings about these proposals. I do understand the need to protect the locals and hence the proposal to create a new category for 100%. However, the other proposal to change the requirement from 51% to 67%, I am not sure it will prevent fronting because all we are doing is moving from one number to another. People can still front.
I like the suggestion that someone in the audience made. I don’t know who it was but that person said that we should require financial statements form the businesses as evidence that the business is indeed majority owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders.
There are other areas in the proposed amendments that I did not comment on as they make sense. One of the proposals is to allow the Department to impose fines without court action. I also like the fact that they proposed to create specific categories for the miscellaneous as miscellaneous was too brought.
I encourage you to read the report and provide your feedback before the deadline.