Governor Kenneth E. Mapp met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin earlier this week to discuss the Territory’s Economic Development tax benefit program’s administration and expansion.
The Department of Treasury has oversight over the Virgin Islands’ ability to grant tax breaks via the Economic Development Authority and other programs. Secretary Mnuchin was pleased with current reports from EDA and the fact that Governor Mapp had rejected unworthy applicants without hesitation.
“I was happy to be able to report that, as Governor, I have had 41 applications on my desk, and 11 of them didn’t meet the standard and they were not approved,” Governor Mapp said. “There’s this misperception that whoever applies for benefits will simply get them.”
The Governor was able to reassure the Treasury Secretary that applicants were screened carefully and that he personally signed off on each agreement. Governor Mapp said it remained critical that the Treasury Department remain confident in EDA’s operating standards.
“The Treasury Department will step in and obstruct the program if it feels that we’re not properly policing and ensuring that the people of the Virgin Islands are getting the jobs and economic infusion that the program was created to provide to us,” Governor Mapp said, recalling a period in the early 2000’s when the USVI’s program was curtailed by the Internal Revenue Service.
Governor Mapp’s efforts to streamline and expand the EDA program were also discussed.
“We’re after a whole new technology sector for the Virgin Islands, the old statutes and regulations focus on manufacturing,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that Treasury supports changes that would allow technology companies to really come into the fold.”
Also subject of discussion was how the U.S. Territories could benefit from proposed tax reforms before Congress, to include bringing tax revenue now overseas back to the U.S. Governor Mapp used his visit to D.C. to discuss this issue with Secretary Mnuchin and to lobby Congressional leaders, to include Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Crapo and Representatives Vern Buchanan and Tom MacArthur, to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands was not left out of the effort to bring as much as $4 trillion back to American coffers.