After First COVID-19 Tax Holiday Devolves Into Fiasco, Colombian Government Pushes E-Commerce For Next Two, Restricts In-Store Sales
As part of President Ivan Duque’s package of measures to salvage the economy during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, three retail tax holidays were announced where retail purchases would be exempt from Colombia’s exorbitant 19% VAT (Value Added Tax). The first of those tax holidays passed on Friday June 19 where despite the country’s progress fighting the spread of the COVID-2 Novel Coronavirus, government policy encouraged a flood of people into retail stores in Black-Friday style mobs completely contrary to the same government’s own health warnings, restrictions and proclamations.
With the next tax holidays scheduled for July 3 and 19, the government, stung by criticism is moderating its tactics significantly. While it has not canceled the tax holidays, Duque’s government has prohibited retail in-person sale of household appliances, computer equipment and televisions in large retail stores to avoid crowds of shoppers.
“It is necessary that the local authorities adopt extraordinary, strict and urgent measures complementary to those dictated in relation to the containment of the virus and advance in the recommendation of processes, procedures and guidelines to be followed by citizens, in order to guarantee that people who converge in commercial establishments, considered to be large stores, avoid crowds and spread the coronavirus,” said a joint circular issued by the Ministry of Commerce Industry & Tourism along with the Ministry of the Interior.
Appliances and electronics could still be purchased according to the government, but via e-commerce online for delivery or for consumer in-store pickup during the two weeks following the tax holiday.
Mayors and local health authorities were further empowered to impose additional restrictions and safety measures, and the government also encouraged local officials to consider establishing crowd-limiting restrictions such as access schedules based on cédula (identity card) numbers and genders.