Tax write-off petition likely to trigger a debate in the States
A PROPOSAL to write off a year’s worth of liability for income tax is set to be debated by politicians after a petition attracted close to 5,000 signatures in just five days.
Former minister Ben Shenton lodged a petition on Monday, calling for the liability to be waived as part of government plans to move all Jersey taxpayers to pay their income tax on a ‘current year’ basis.
Around two-thirds of taxpayers – a total of around 45,000 people – currently pay income tax for their prior year’s earnings.
Treasury Minister Susie Pinel proposed the prior-to-current switch, but has rejected any possibility of writing off the liability when the move is made, saying this would cost the Island £320million and be unfair.
Mr Shenton has said that Deputy Pinel’s plans, which would see Islanders required to pay back the ‘missing’ year of income tax from 2023 onwards would unjustly penalise thousands in the ‘middle Jersey’ demographic.
Yesterday afternoon the petition was within 300 signatures of crossing the 5,000-signature threshold, at which the topic is considered for a States debate.
Deputy Pinel said: ‘I want to make it absolutely clear that if the proposal is agreed by the States Assembly in October, no Prior Year Basis taxpayers would be expected to pay their frozen 2019 tax bill in full in 2023, unless they chose to do so.
‘We are currently gathering feedback on how Islanders would prefer to pay their 2019 tax bill. Affected Islanders could have the option to pay their 2019 tax bill in instalments over a much longer period – for example, over five to ten years. They could have the option to choose whether to make monthly or quarterly payments. We are also considering introducing an affordability test to support people who might need to pay their bill over a longer term.
‘The only people who would pay their 2019 tax bill in full in 2023 are those who choose to do so.
‘Finally, I want to emphasise that the government isn’t in a position to write off the 2019 tax bill, which amounts to £320 million, due to the additional Covid-19-related costs the government has had to meet over the last few months.
‘In addition, such a move would not be fair to former PYB taxpayers who have already paid off their PYB liability, or to CYB taxpayers.’
Under Deputy Pinel’s proposals, a period of consultation over the summer will be followed by a States Assembly debate in October. It is not yet clear whether a separate, earlier debate will be scheduled as a result of Mr Shenton’s petition.
The income tax petition will be just the sixth to pass the 5,000-signature mark in the two years since the e-petition scheme began, among a total of 232 petitions accepted during that time.
The two petitions attracting the most support both related to the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic: 6,048 Islanders called for a lockdown to be introduced, while 5,872 people backed calls for emergency support for ‘self-employed business’ affected by the virus.
Neither petition related to Covid-19 led to a specific debate, as ministers moved to bring in lockdown measures and roll out economic support.
Three other petitions have triggered States Assembly debates:
lIn July 2019 States Members held an in-committee debate connected to a petition calling for higher sentences for paedophiles, signed by 5,100 people. There was no vote at the end of the 1hr 50min debate, prior to which ministers had stated that it was not common practice in Jersey to use legislation to set minimum prison terms.
lIn March 2019 there was a general debate, lasting 2hr 30min, on the subject of rent controls and affordable housing in Jersey. This followed a petition, backed by 5,298 Islanders, calling for a price cap in order to limit rents to a ‘reasonable’ level.
lIn June 2019, following a 45-minute debate on the subject, the Assembly gave unanimous backing to a proposition brought by Deputy Jeremy Maçon to request the Environment and Infrastructure Ministers to consult on how cats could be given additional legal protection in the event of death or injury in a road accidents. The debate followed a petition which attracted 5,385 signatures.
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