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New T&B Regime Kicks Off New Year

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman (CNS) -- With the new trade and business licensing law coming into effect on New Year’s Day, local business owners will need to be up to speed on the amended legislation in order to avoid the increased fines.

The goal of the law is to increase compliance rather than punish businesses but there are important changes that the public should know about that have been made to ensure a fairer environment for local commerce.

Current and future licence holders are advised that the law features several amended or entirely new components, all of which are intended to create a level playing field for business owners and to make the overall business licensing system much more efficient, officials said in a release this week about the new regime.

“For years, government has received comments from business owners regarding changes they felt would improve Cayman’s trade and business licensing regime,” said Commerce Minister Wayne Panton.

“Following a consultative review process that involved business owners and other stakeholders, we now have a law that meets two key economic objectives: it’s more business friendly, and it also provides the regulatory platform that gives both consumers and business owners more confidence in our licensing framework,” he said. “‘The overall intention is to create a culture of business licensing compliance in the Cayman Islands.”

The Legislative Assembly passed the law in December 2014 but the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI), which will administer the new law, has been developing and testing the operational systems that the law requires. “The new law means changes in procedures for both business owners, and staff,” said Director Ryan Rajkumarsingh. “Our goal is to have a system that’s tested and ready for 1 January.”

Business owners applying or renewing a licence are encouraged to look at the checklist (which can be found here), which was prepared by the DCI, to ensure they are completing the new licensing form, and providing the correct documentation. The checklist states the licensing requirements for small and micro businesses, registered companies, sole traders, and Local Companies (Control) Licences.

The owners of small and micro businesses who are applying for government incentives will need to submit additional information. As well as a business plan, they must now submit health insurance information. For renewal applications, a certificate of compliance indicating pension enrolment, which must be stamped and signed by the pension plan provider, must be submitted along with the health insurance declaration form.

The new requirements for sole trader grant applications are a police clearance and a bank reference letter, along with other documents per the checklist. A registered company will now need to submit due diligence documents for all directors, along with the other necessary details as per the checklist, which must be submitted along with the completed application form.

The new law focuses on creating a level playing field for businesses, and is intended to lead to greater efficiencies in the overall business licensing system. Among other features, it will reduce approval times for licenses, clarify business licensing categories, and improve DCI’s enforcement powers.

Included in the changes to the law and regulations are new forms for grants, renewals and incentives under sole trader; and one form for grants, renewals and incentives for companies. Officials said that because of changes in the arrangement of information, it’s also easier for applicants to complete, which means more accuracy and, subsequently, faster processing. This checklist further assists people with completing the application.

Business owners renewing a licence must submit the renewal application prior to its expiry. The time-frame to submit renewal applications is between three months and 28 days before the previous licence expires.

In addition to a business plan, small and micro businesses need to submit health insurance information when applying for the government incentive. For renewal applications, a certificate of compliance indicating pension enrolment, which must be stamped and signed by the pension plan provider, must be submitted along with the health insurance declaration form.

To help ensure and maintain efficiencies in the licensing process, DCI will enforce penalties for late applications. For incomplete applications, the Trade and Business Licensing Board may require applicants to complete and resubmit the application and pay a resubmission fee. Those not intending to renew their licences must notify DCI by formal letter or email to avoid incurring fees and to avoid liability for outstanding fees.

People who breach their business licence requirements will be subject to receiving tickets and paying fines under the new law, as DCI’s trade officers will now have greater enforcement responsibilities. T&B licence holders who do not pay the renewal fee within 28 days before the expiry date of the licence shall, unless the T&B Board waives it, pay a surcharge not exceeding 25% of the renewal fee for every month, or part of a month, that the renewal fee is not paid.

Business owners who want to question a Trade and Business Licensing Board decision will have an opportunity to do so through the Trade and Business Licensing Appeals Tribunal.