Number of people benefiting far lower than 400,000
The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has confirmed that approximately 200,000 people benefited from the increase in the income tax threshold to $1.5 million. But that is a number that opposition members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) claim is lower and contradicts figures given by the Andrew Holness administration.
"The number of Jamaicans who would have been on the PAYE tax roll is 469,131 persons. Of that number, there would have been approximately 200,000 that, prior to the increase in the threshold, would have already been below the threshold," Rochelle Whyte of the PIOJ told the PAAC on Wednesday.
She added: "With the increase to the $1.5 (million), an additional 200,000 would now be below the threshold, bringing the total number to 400,000. So, those on the PAYE tax roll which are now above the threshold is 69,131."
PAAC member Fitz Jackson said that that went against statements from the Government, which, he argued, suggested that a number higher than the 200,000 is benefiting from the implementation of an election-winning promise to raise the income tax threshold to $1.5 million.
"The narrative that is out there is that there are 400,000 persons now benefiting from the threshold increase. That would not be true by what you have just said. It is only 269,131, not 400,000. As you said, 200,000 were already benefiting. So, whether the threshold moved or not, they would still be getting their benefit. To say that 400,000 is now getting benefit is a misinformation," argued Jackson.
Checking on accuracy
In the meantime, Financial Secretary Everton McFarlane told the PAAC that he would be making checks to ensure complete accuracy.
"I think I understand where this notion of this 400,000 benefiting from the tax threshold (is coming from). I believe that it was in relation to a statement which had indicated that with the change to $1.5 million, 400,000 persons were now below the threshold. I am not sure that the record spoke about 400,000 benefiting."
In the text of his speech which opened the 2017-2018 Budget Debate on March 9, Finance Minister Audley Shaw said: "This increase in the income tax threshold has increased disposable incomes for approximately 200,000 taxpayers out of a tax population of a 469,000."
A Jamaica Information Service report quotes Shaw as saying in the House: "Under this $1.5-million threshold that this Government has instituted, 397,083 persons, almost 400,000 persons of that entire PAYE cohort of taxpayers, will now be exempt from paying taxes, because they are now completely below the $1.5-million tax threshold."
No government member of the PAAC, including Fayval Williams, a state minister in the finance ministry, attended Wednesday's meeting.