Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Local News

New taxes dull Gibraltar’s competitive edge, Chamber says

Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce has accused the Gibraltar Government of championing increased government efficiency while “lumbering” the private sector with new taxes.
It said the hikes, though small in many cases, would end in higher costs for people shipping goods and would dent Gibraltar’s competitiveness.
The Chamber was complaining about additional customs administration fees that come into effect on Sunday.
“The new taxes, although relatively small, will cost some businesses thousands of pounds a year and will make Gibraltar less competitive for goods imported for onward delivery known as T1 shipments,” the Chamber said in a statement.
“Fees are also being levied for processing temporary import licences and for export licences.”
“These taxes are an additional cost for local freight agents who have no choice but to pass it onto their clients.”
“This erodes Gibraltar’s competitiveness at a time when local companies are trying to position themselves to deal with the upheaval and uncertainties of Brexit.”
“If the government can do this to local businesses then the time has come to consider introducing a similar administrative charge for personal imports bought online.”
The Chamber said that over the past 10 years, taxpayers had paid several million pounds for the upgrade of the ASYCUDA IT system used by Gibraltar Customs.
The rationale for doing this was that it would greatly improve the efficiency of clearing goods and collecting import duty and so improve the government’s cash flows.
Soon after the new system was implemented, Gibraltar Customs embarked on a campaign to employ more than 70 additional customs officers.
But according to the Chamber, despite the introduction of the new system, there are a number of processes which are still performed manually and are not part of the ASYCUDA system.
“The net effect of this means that paper forms, invoices and cargo manifests still have to be taken to Customs and then be collected,” the Chamber said.
“Payments to Customs can only be made physically by cheque which requires additional journeys to Customs to clear goods.”
The Chamber also complained about the process for importing foodstuffs, which it said was “just as cumbersome” as forms and certificates need to be completed and delivered physically to the Environmental Agency at the EPU.
“It is true that ASYCUDA has certainly improved things but there are still a lot of manual processes required to import and clear goods,” it said.
“These should all be brought fully online if local businesses and the government are to enjoy the full benefits of the ASYCUDA platform.”
“Similarly, when family friendly hours were introduced across the public sector in 2015 the government promised longer public counter hours and more efficient government.”
“The net result was that the civil service got the family friendly hours but the promised improved efficiency has remained a distant wish.”
The Chamber also voiced concern about other fees introduced earlier this year, including a charge to register each new vacancy at the ETB.
E-government, “which has been promised by the government for many years”, is still not available, the Chamber added, and local businesses “have to waste time” going to and from various government offices to submit forms, pay licence fees or obtain an official stamp.
“All these activities performed by public sector employees have previously been paid for by the taxes raised by government either directly through licence fees or by company taxes,” the Chamber said.
“The government has become far too accustomed to increasing taxes on business and to introducing new taxes which make it far more difficult for local companies to compete.”