Home Commentary Op-ed DUNCAN DEAL?

DUNCAN DEAL?

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Tim Duncan is a terrific Virgin Islander. If he had any debt to the V.I., he has paid it back already. Yet, he can be of much value to the V. I. He is also entitled to be supported by the V.I., both morally and financially.
However, the "Tim Duncan Bill" that was submitted by Governor Turnbull and approved by the Senate is misnamed and misrepresented . . . it is the "Agent and shareholders of Tim Duncan Bill." For none of the benefits accrue to Tim Duncan. The tax benefits are given to unnamed and unknown people or companies.
In simple terms the agreement calls for Tim Duncan to pay his income tax obligations to the V.I. government for the next 15 years and in exchange for that his shareholders in T.D. Enterprises Inc. will receive a 15-year tax holiday.
The agreement limits the number of shareholders to six but none of them is named. I could become one. George Soros or Benladden could become one as well as his agent, his lawyer and any other "hangers-on."
The agreement also does not state what businesses TD Enterprises will be in: No employment requirements are stated, no investment requirements are stated. The agreement is just another free lunch issued by the V.I. government.
As is the case with many V.I. government contracts, the problem is not with the other side asking, (for they are seeking the best possible deal). The problem is that the V.I. government agrees to the terms. The deal is indeed terrific for the agent, lawyers and stockholders. However, the V.I. is potentially left holding the bag. Even more alarming is the fact that our native son, ambassador and moneymaker is subsidizing very wealthy investors who are unknown to us – the people who are paying for it.
I would be the first one to sign-up Tim Duncan to promote the V.I. and pay him his market rate – whatever it might be. For I would be proud and honored to have Tim Duncan represent the Virgin Islands. It was one of the first things I addressed as acting Tourism commissioner. Yet I was told to wait because the Tim Duncan deal was in process.
It should be noted that Sammy Sosa promotes the Dominican Republic in exchange for a contribution to his charitable foundation by the Government of the D.R., that Ricky Martin promotes Puerto Rico for a dollar a year and that the Puerto Rico Tourism office operates a tourist information booth in his restaurant for $100,000 a year, and that Andru Jones promotes Aruba for $100,000 annually.
We should be giving Tim Duncan the tax holiday. Tell his agents, lawyers and investors to go to the IDC like everyone else and apply for benefits, based on the merits of the amount to be invested and employment to be created for Virgin Islanders.
Example: Tim Duncan could conceivably earn $30 million a year (if not more) in the coming years between salary and endorsements. He would then owe approximately $10 million in taxes to the VI government, nothing to the Federal government or Texas or the municipality or city of San Antonio. By merely moving back to St. Croix Tim will save money on his taxes. One can argue, moving his legal residence to Texas was a mistake in the first place.
According to the deal, Tim would pay the full amount of $10 million. His investors however would then be entitled to up to $20 million in income tax exemption alone and still more benefits in the way of gross receipt, excise and real estate taxes.
In other words, his shareholders can earn $60 million in income tax free. And get this, his shareholders only have to establish legal residence in the V.I. Not one business has to be set up here, nor one person hired – merely the income from worldwide operations recorded in the V.I. at year-end. Residency can be established by renting a one-bedroom apartment.
There is clearly opportunity for the V.I. to benefit from Tim Duncan's success. Yet, this bill falls miserably short due to a lack of vision, knowledge and wherewithal on the V.I. government's side of the negotiating table.

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