INCOME TAX  (ran April 1974)

As far back as we remember there have been intermittent attempts to introduce income tax in Bermuda.

In fact, in August 1940 an income tax bill was actually passed by the House of Assembly, and no doubt most people here thought the matter was finally settled, as the Legislative Council, Bermuda’s “Upper House”, rarely interfered with “money” bills. (The last precedent for rejection of a “money bill” had been in 1851.) However, when the bill came before the Council, the members voted five to three in favour of a motion that the bill be read six months hence, traditionally the kiss of death to a bill. The man who cast the decisive vote was Dr Thomas Heber Outerbridge, 93 years old, a member of the house for 44 years before being appointed to the Legislative Council, and who walked four miles from his Smith’s Parish home to attend Council meetings. On that occasion there were some acid recriminations between members Mr F. G. Gosling and Major R. W. Appleby. Mr Gosling alluded to the rejection of the bill as “parliamentary impropriety” and was taken to task by Major Appleby, who desired a motion of censure to be taken against Mr Gosling. Dispute on this point occupied at least one entire sitting of the Council. Back to the House went the income tax bill, over which the Finance Committee had laboured so long and so heroically, there to evoke more lively debate and further amendments, chief of which was the jettisoning of the clause, which would make the bill retroactive for 1940. A motion that the House go into committee to consider the revised bill was promptly challenged by Mr N.H.P Vesey (no Sir Henry Vesey), who with deadly logic pointed out that in its revised form the bill could no longer be considered an emergency measure. He showed that three years might pass before results would be obtained from the bill. Britain, he said, had figured her financial policy for a three-year period, and the income tax bill might well become effective when the need for it had vanished.

At the time, The Bermudian recorded: “After Mr Vesey’s speech, opposition to the bill began to increase. At going to press, indications were that the income tax bill was destined for a stormy voyage and might well founder before making port in the statute books.”

So it has turned out, and it appears that we are no nearer to adopting income tax than were 34 years ago.