Cabinet decision of October 2023 removes health items from ABST-exempt list as COVID pandemic is over

While the Gaston Browne Administration was telling consumers
that the zero-rated basket of more than 60 goods would remain
untouched – and possibly would be widened – and that the 2
percent increase in the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST)
would not be onerous, a Cabinet decision has proven the deception.

In a letter dated January 16, 2024, and captioned “Repeal of
Temporary Relief of ABST,” Inland Revenue Department
Commissioner Ralph Warner disclosed that the Cabinet has decided
to end the temporary relief on some health-related items.

Cabinet decision No. 20, item 14, of October 18, 2023, stipulates
that, with effect from January 1, 2024, the ABST on these goods will
attract the new ABST rate of 17 percent.

Some of the items temporarily relieved of ABST had included those
classified as antiseptics, including rubbing alcohol, Alcolado,
hydrogen peroxide, and Dettol.

Other items included disinfectant wipes (Clorox, Lysol, etc.);
cleaning wipes; sanitizers; toilet paper and paper towel; aloe vera
gel; and Vitamin C and multivitamins.

Many consumers consider these as essential items, especially as
residents are now battling respiratory illnesses, including COVID-

Further, the Cabinet has reported that many young people are
suffering from cancer, and others are afflicted with kidney disease,
while sickle-cell and heart-disease clinics are to be set up on the
Holberton Hospital compound.

Therefore, residents argue that the targeted health aids ought to
remain exempted from the ABST.

However, the Inland Revenue Department notes that the items were
“temporarily relieved” only to assist with public-health measure’s
during the pandemic.

That period has ended, it says, and the prices will now revert to the
standard rate by order of the Cabinet.

The Department says that this decision aligns with ongoing efforts
to balance economic considerations with public health concerns.