During a visit to Kenya, Seychelles’ President Danny Faure and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta entered into a wide-reaching agreement aimed to enhance ties in trade and security
President Faure left Seychelles on April 2 on his first state visit since he took office in October 2016 following the resignation of former President James Michel.
The agreement was the culmination of bilateral discussions between the two heads of state at the State House in Nairobi on April 3. The agreement will see Kenya export more human capital (for example, teachers) and agricultural products to Seychelles.
President Faure said it makes more economic sense for Seychelles to import beef and poultry from Kenya instead of countries like Brazil. In the maritime sector, Seychelles has expressed its support to Kenya in developing its fishing industry, where President Kenyatta said little attention has been paid to since its independence. Seychelles will also support Kenya to develop the capacity of the port of Mombasa to act as a fish trans-shipment port.
The two Presidents also agreed for the two countries to cooperate in tourism development by partnering the agencies managing the sectors.
Transparency Initiative Seychelles was officially launched in the beginning of April. This is a new non-governmental organisation, a part of the global entity Transparency International (TI).
Chrystold Chetty, the chair of Transparency Initiative Seychelles, said that the group joined the international organisation as people in Seychelles are asking for more transparency.
The launch of Transparency Initiative Seychelles was done at the end of a 2-day workshop hosted earlier this week on illicit financial cash flows from Africa. Participants were from TI members from the region such as Nigeria, South Africa and Mauritius. The workshop countries explored ways to resolve the issue of money that comes illegally from African countries and how as members of TI they can lobby their respective governments to put in place measures and structures to stop the illicit financial flows.
Transparency International (TI) is working in 35 countries in Africa. Transparency Initiative Seychelles was set up in October 2016 as the newest member of the organisation.
At the opening of the workshop, the founder of TI Peter Eigen, said that the “TI was set up about 25 years ago with the idea to help stop international corruption.” He noted: “We have seen that many countries, in particular in Africa, suffer from systemic bribery by companies from Europe and the United States. We have to stop these companies from bribing the decision makers in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America.”
On April 4, the Seychelles’ Department of Foreign Affairs said it does not know if the individuals mentioned in a Washington Post article met in Seychelles.
According to the newspaper, a secret meeting was organised between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.
According to the Washington Post, meeting took place in Seychelles around January 11, 9 days before Trump’s inauguration. “Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on US sanctions”.
On February 14, in his State of the Nation Address, President Seychelles’ Danny Faure announced that the implementation of a progressive personal income tax regime will be delayed to January 1, 2018.
Under the new regime, a SCR 8,555.5 (USD 630) tax-exempt threshold will be introduced. However, it will not be available to expatriates. Income tax above that threshold will be subject to progressive rates of 15%, 20%, or 30%.
Its introduction had already been delayed to July 1, 2017, rather than January 1, 2017, in the 2017 Budget announced in December 2016. According to the President, the further 6-month delay is needed for more qualitative preparation.
Also, he disclosed that, within its continuing policy to reduce the cost of living in Seychelles, the Government of the jurisdiction will revise the list of goods which will not be subject to value-added tax (VAT). The revised list, which will include new products, will be published as from March 1, 2017.
The Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC) has issued a draft public ruling aimed at providing guidance on the definition of “turnover” for the calculation of liability to the Corporate Social Responsibility Tax (CSRT).
The 0.5% CSRT is imposed on businesses with an annual turnover equal to or exceeding the liability threshold of SCR 1 million(USD 75,100). Funds raised through the tax mostly fund community projects.
The CSRT turnover in the legislation is defined as “the gross receipts from carrying on of business.”
On January 11, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicated that Seychelles will need to take further measures aimed to increase tax revenue over the medium term.
With strong economic activity continuing in Seychelles, the IMF it expects the country’s primary surplus – the surplus before accounting for the cost of interest on debt – is to reach 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, despite the expansionary impact of the fiscal initiatives announced in the State of the Nation Address in early 2016. Those measures included personal income tax (PIT) cuts and increases in pensions and the minimum wage.
The IMF confirmed that “the State of the Nation Address initiatives entailed substantial fiscal costs, around 3% of GDP on a full-year basis.” The PIT reforms were designed by the Government of Seychelles to reduce the tax burden on low-income earners and, on a phased basis, make the tax system more progressive.
The IMF noted that the proposed 2017 Budget includes some measures to moderate the impact of the initiatives, including a new property tax on foreigners’ land ownership in Seychelles, and realignments to the presumptive tax rate and to the tax rate on profits made by individual businesses. However, its opinion was that “additional and permanent measures to boost revenue and contain expenditure will be needed to ensure a steady debt reduction over the medium term.”
Switzerland has launched a consultation on the introduction of the automatic exchange of information in tax matters with a series of countries including Seychelles.
The consultation will run until March 15, 2017. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance (FDF) is planning that the AEOI with a number of jurisdictions enters into force on January 1, 2018, with the first exchanges to take place in 2019.
The introduction of the AEOI with the countries confirms Switzerland’s international commitment to implement the AEOI standard. It is expected to enhance the competitiveness and credibility as well as the integrity of Switzerland’s financial center.
Besides Seychelles, the list of countries includes: Andorra, Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Chile, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, India, Israel, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, the Seychelles, South Africa, Turks and Caicos, and Uruguay.
Reviewing tourism in Seychelles for the year 2016, Alain St Ange, the outgoing Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine said: “We started 2016 on a high and today we know that we will finish the year with a 10% increase over last year. So it is a real success story for Seychelles. A success story because we are going against the trend in many other countries where they are either stagnant or even decreasing. The other major success in 2016 was the arrival of extra flights, airlines or planes serving Seychelles. It is a success because a couple of years ago Seychelles suffered when airlines departed.”
Also, Minister St Ange acknowledged the challenges facing the trade where he also outlined certain measures to be taken to counter these challenges. When there is an increase in tourism arrival numbers, it is necessary to manage the expectations of visitors. So, he said that one of the several projects to be undertaken is the upgrading of hotels so that clients can be informed on the level they are and what type of service is expected of them and of what quality they are before the clients come here. Also, tourists must be able to feel they live in security when in Seychelles.
He noted that 2016 started off after a good, successful 2015 where the country finished the year with a Plus 19 increase in visitor arrivals.
As an industry, tourism remained a key driver of growth in consideration of the sector’s contribution to Seychelles’ GDP, foreign exchange earnings and employment generation.
According to the newly released Budget, Seychelles will finalize significant reforms to its main taxes in 2017.
The jurisdiction will complete the introduction of a progressive personal income tax regime from July 1, 2017, rather than January 1, 2017. A SCR 8,555.5 (USD 660) tax-exempt threshold will be introduced, but it will not be available to expatriates. Income tax above that threshold will be subject to progressive rates of 15%, 20%, or 30%.
From July 1, 2017, a new property tax will be introduced on land ownership in Seychelles, to be levied only on foreigners, and purchases of private land by foreigners will also attract a high stamp duty. Further details of the new tax are still under consideration.
Also, it is proposed to change the Business Tax Act. The tax-free threshold for individual businesses, such as sole traders or partners, will remain at SCR 150,000. However to align personal income tax (PIT) and individual business tax rates, the tax rate on profits of between SCR150,000 to SCR1m will be increased from 15 to 20%. Profits above SCR 1 million will continue to be taxed at 33%.
The Government is also proposing that the presumptive tax rate will be realigned. The tax rate on businesses with a turnover of up to SCR 0.5 million is to remain at 1.5%, but a 3% tax will be imposed on businesses with a turnover from SCR 0.5 million. The new cap for the presumptive tax is proposed to rise to SCR 2 million, up from SCR 1 million. Professional taxpayers, such as accountants and engineers, will pay a 5% rate.
Larose also announced that, as from July 1, 2017, the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority will impose an additional USD 10 passenger service fee. He noted that “the collection will be a direct contribution towards the country’s foreign exchange earnings to maintain the high standard of the Airport.”
According to the jurisdiction’s newly released Budget, Seychelles will finalize significant reforms to its main taxes in 2017.
Seychelles will complete the introduction of a progressive personal income tax regime from July 1, 2017, rather than January 1, 2017. A SCR 8,555.5 (which is USD 660) tax-exempt threshold will be introduced, but it will not be available to expatriates. Income tax above that threshold will be subject to progressive rates of either 15%, 20%, or 30%.
From July 1, 2017, a new property tax will be introduced on land ownership in Seychelles, to be levied only on foreigners, and purchases of private land by foreigners will also attract a high stamp duty.
The Government of Seychelles is also planning to change the Business Tax Act. The tax-free threshold for individual businesses, such as sole traders or partners, will remain at SCR 150,000. However to align personal income tax (PIT) and individual business tax rates, the tax rate on profits of between SCR 150,000 to SCR1m will be increased from 15% to 20%. Profits above SCR1m will continue to be taxed at 33%.
In addition, it is proposed that the presumptive tax rate will be realigned. The tax rate on businesses with a turnover of up to SCR 0.5 million is to remain at 1.5%, but a 3% tax will be imposed on businesses with a turnover from SCR 0.5 million. The new cap for the presumptive tax is proposed to rise to SCR 2 million, up from SCR 1 million. Professional taxpayers, such as accountants and engineers, will pay a 5% rate.
Included in a substantial series of measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Government will exempt businesses with an annual gross revenue of up to SCR 1 m from paying tax in their first year of operation. Larose said that the medium- to long-term target is “to turn Seychelles into the SME capital of the Indian Ocean.”
Also, an additional cost for foreign visitors disembarking at the Seychelles International Airport was announced. As from July 1, 2017, the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority will impose an additional USD 10 passenger service fee.
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