What are the provisions set down by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act with regard to e-commerce transactions in Bahamas?
The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (hereinafter "the Act") was enacted in June, 2003 in order to provide legal stability in the field of online commercial activity thereby instilling consumer confidence in online commercial activity, particularly global commercial activity.
Under the Act, no prejudice should be granted against any transaction solely since it was conducted via an electronic medium. It permits parties to use electronic devices to form, negotiate and conclude contracts and other legally binding agreements. Messages, signatures, writings and contracts are just as valid in electronic form as they are in paper form.
In addition, the Act is technology neutral, recognizing that technologies will continue to evolve. Furthermore, unlike in other jurisdictions, this Act does not stipulate the type or method to be used to generate an electronic contract, signature or method of authenticating the communication so long as the necessary attributes are met by electronic means.
The Act also sets out the duties and the possible liabilities of e-commerce service, providers and similar intermediaries such as web hosts and Internet Service Providers.
Does the Computer Misuse Act, protect any offences arising from illegal interference with computers and their security systems in Bahamas?
Enacted in June 2003, The Computer Misuse Act created a number of offenses and severe penalties arising from illegal interference with computers and their security systems, such as six different offenses, including hacking in all its guises. The Act is based upon the standards and guidelines that the European Council and the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD) have established and that have been adopted by almost 30 countries.
These offenses are vital to effectively deter wanton or negligent security breaches of computer systems. However, adequate penalties do not presently do not exist in the punitive framework of the Bahamas, rendering much of the Act moot.
Is taxation on electronic commerce applicable in Bahamas?
The trend of collecting tax from Internet transactions is still not clear. One concern with regard to e-commerce taxation is not hindering development of a viable and affordable telecommunications infrastructure. The Bahamas addressed this by liberalizing provisions of Internet service in 1996.
The problems and issues associated with e-commerce taxation are not unique to the Bahamas. However, it is compounded by the fact that the Bahamas has no experience collecting taxes since it does not impose regular taxes such as income, purchase or sales tax.
How is Value Added Tax (VAT) levied on the supply of services in a zero rating environment such as the Bahamas? VAT varies from sales taxes in that they tax final consumption by imposing taxes on activities along the production chain i.e. the 'value added' in each step. The exporters receive rebates equivalent to the amount of tax paid in the course of producing the export item, while imports are subject to VAT at the same rate as locally produced goods.
In a zero-rating environment, such as the Bahamas, no tax is charged on the supply of financial services and the service and providers are permitted to recoup tax credits for tax expenses incurred in the provision of their services.