Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2017 Contents news A19
Thursday, May 4, 2017 guardian.co.tt
PM claims motive for Kamla's position
Stories by SHALIZA HASSANALI
Prime Minister Dr Keith Row-
ley has accused Opposition Leader
Kamla Persad-Bissessar of insti-
tuting a five-year property tax am-
nesty for her own personal gains.
Rowley made the claim on Tuesday
during a public meeting at the Diego
Martin Community Centre, where he
dismissed arguments by Persad-Bis-
sessar and former Congress of the Peo-
ple (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar
that the property tax was draconian
and meant to pauperise the country.
He said Ramadhar, who had previ-
ously been championing the fight for
people with the Axe the Tax slogan,
had been obsolete before he suddenly
came alive with this latest campaign.
"Prakash was dead and buried...be-
gin to smell...he's seeing an opportu-
nity to resurrect himself," Rowley said.
He said Persad-Bissessar promised
the population that she would repeal
the property tax when she returns to
"I want you all to ask her how much
tax she paid on the mansion in Phil-
lipine for the last five years. So you
understand why she has a problem
with property tax."
Rowley said what Persad-Bissessar
did was to lead her Cabinet "into giving
amnesties from which she was a ma-
jor beneficiary for five years and now
wants that to be permanent. On that
basis, she is the owner of a mansion she
does not want to pay for now."
The PM said when the tax goes into
effect he will be the first to pay.
Rowley reminded the gathering
that the property tax did not come
like a thief in the night since they
were warned of its collection prior
to the 2015 general elections. He said
the unpaid taxes, which amounted to
millions, were going into their pockets.
Rowley made it clear that tenants of
the Housing Development Corpora-
tion would be exempted from paying
He again Rowley touched on the is-
sue of whether squatters should pay
taxes or not.
While he said the topic was interest-
ing, Rowley said "anyone who wants
to be an owner who is in a squatter
situation, you should be glad to pay
the tax because what that does, it ce-
ments your position of ownership of
He said the squatter cannot be fish
and fowl and "it depends on what sta-
tus the squatter takes on the piece of
land you accepted, because the law
only applies to owners."
Rowley also pointed out that if the
Government was not subsidising State
agencies they would have been in a
better financial position today.
Between 2014 to 2016, Rowley said
the Government subsidised WASA to
the tune of $6 billion to keep the State
agency running "as bad as the service
is." Under this two-year period, $13
billion also went towards fuel subsidy,
while to manage UTT and UWI was
priced at $3.2 billion.
It also cost the Treasury $12 million
to fund Cepep, URP, senior citizen's
pension and disability grants, while
GATE estimated expenditure was
$1.98 billion, he said.
The public servants' wage bill be-
tween was also tagged at $20.7 billion,
while to subsidise the inter-island
ferry s came with a price tag of $250
While Government made drastic
cuts and adjustments without collaps-
ing the economy, Rowley assured that
T&T will not end up in the arms of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF).
New tax, fair and
just, says Imbert
Finance Minister Colm Imbert
said that the proposed 2011 Land
and Building Taxes by the former
People's Partnership would have
been ten times worse for home-
owners if implemented.
Imbert was speaking at the Diego
Martin Community Centre on Tues-
day, as he tried to clear up any mis-
conceptions the public may have on
the controversial property tax issue,
which the Opposition has been telling
citizens to desist from paying.
Imbert described the tax as fair,
equitable and just.
In outlining the facts, Imbert said
admitted that the 18 months the
Government has been in office, the
country was earning a mere $37 bil-
lion in revenue, when our expenditure
was $57 billion.
With a shortfall of $20 billion, Im-
bert said the collection of property
tax was one way to generate a revenue
Imbert said a valuator on television
had estimated that in the last seven
years the tax was waived, the State
had lost upward of $2.5 billion based
on the old rates.
In 2009, Imbert said the Property
Tax Act was passed in Parliament.
Two years later, Imbert said the
then PP administration laid a piece
of legislation in Parliament to repeal
the act and to enact a new Land and
Building Taxes Act.
"But they never completed that
transaction and allowed the Act to
From 2012 to 2015, Imbert said
there was a waiver on the tax pay-
"The land and building tax that
they brought in 2011 was ten times
worse than the Property Tax Act and
20 times worse than what was there
Imbert said while the Opposition
has been telling the population that if
you did not pay tax the Government
would sell their homes, when he ex-
amined the legislation laid in Parlia-
ment by the PP "it had a provision
in it that if you don't pay your land
and building taxes for one year the
government could forfeit your house."
In the Government's Property Tax
Act, Imbert said if a property owner
receives a notice of assessment of his/
her taxes and refuses to pay he would
first get a warning.
If they fail to adhere with the warn-
ing, Imbert said a notice would follow.
"If you fail to adhere to the pro-
cedures in the law after five years
then the State has a right to initiate
a process for forfeiture of the prop-
erty. You see why I have to listen to
these political hypocrites talking
Imbert said though the land and
building taxes dates back to 1920,
the country has been collecting taxes
He said there were approximate-
ly 200,000 residential properties in
T&T that were not in the system to
pay property tax.
"Too many people in this country
getting away with not paying taxes."
Imbert said while internation-
al agencies have been advising the
Government to cut expenditure and
to devalue the T&T dollar, if this had
been done, it would have caused so-
cial unrest and chaos in the country.
FOCUS ON GAMING
Another issue he raised was the
gambling and gaming industry which
continues to go unregulated.
He said the Board of Inland Reve-
nue (BIR) had estimated 125 gaming
establishments in T&T of which only
five pay taxes.
"That has to stop. As we move to
regulate the gaming and gambling
industry and bring within the confines
of the law so they can declare their in-
come and pay their taxes we are going
to get a push back."
Imbert estimated that $10 billion
a year passes through casinos and
gambling establishments, but the
Government collects only a pittance of
After the May 22 deadline for sub-
mission the property tax form, Imbert
said the Valuation Division will begin
the process of assessing the value of
all properties to prepare a valuation roll
which is a list of all properties in T&T
with information on the property tax.
Once the valuation roll is completed,
Imbert said the BIR will send each
property owner a notice indicating that
your property has been assessed for
tax and the homeowner would be giv-
en 30 days in which to pay the tax.
If there is an objection, Imbert said
there was process one would have to
Imbert warned that failure to
comply in sending in the form on May
22, could have repercussions for the
homeowner who wants to acquire a
loan/mortgage from a financial insti-
To obtain such a loan, the bank
would ask for an updated land and
building tax receipt.
Not having a receipt could land you
"So I expect that sensible people
would understand that. This is in your
best interest and the point I am mak-
ing is that we really need the revenue.
We don't want to enter a situation
where we have to take drastic mea-
sures. We have not taken any drastic
measure so far," Imbert said.
Having worked out some prop-
erty tax calculations on residential
properties, Imbert said a home which
would collect an annual rental value of
$60,000 would cost the homeowner
$1,620 in taxes annually.
For a Carenage property that at-
tracts a monthly rent of $3,500 the
homeowner would pay a yearly tax of
At River Estate, Diego Martin,
Imbert said a property that gets a
monthly rental value of $3,000 will pay
$1,000 in taxes a year.
In upscale Goodwood Park, a
home that collects a monthly rent
of $20,000 will cost $6,000 in taxes
"The man who owns a shopping
mall which has 100 stores the tax on
that is $3 million a year."
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, and Finance Minister Colm Imbert,
during the PNM's public forum on property tax at the Diego Martin
Community Centre in Diego Martin on Tuesday. PHOTO: ANISTO ALVES
HISTORY OF PROPERTY TAX REGIME
The Prime Minister, reading from an
Institute of Surveyors of T&T ---Prop-
erty Tax 2009 Position Paper dated
April 25, gave his audience a history
lesson on property tax and what rec-
ommendations had been put forward
In 1998, the document stated that
government determined the property
tax and valuation should be revised
and a committee was set up and
chaired by Randolph Kong.
Kong, in his report, recommended
that reform be taken using the capital
value of properties instead of the esti-
mated rental value. However, Rowley
said that recommendation was not
In 1991 a chartered valuation sur-
veyor was asked to undertake another
review of the tax, he said.
"It was suggested that the country
revalue and reform its system by
use of the improved capital value
approach to valuations based on the
market value of properties, including
land, buildings, machinery plant and
equipment," Rowley said.
Following a comprehensive review
in 1994 by a working group of valu-
ation experts, Rowley said Cabinet
accepted this proposal, but recom-
mendations were not implemented in
2009 when the Property Tax Act was
"We choose to use the rental value."
The report further stated that
given the economic downturn and
falling oil prices, re-implementation of
the tax was justified in order to raise
foreign exchange and income, Rowley
"If there ever has been more a
prudent time to review and update
the property taxation system of the
country it is now," Rowley said, as he
read from the document.
He said the surveyors worked out
some examples of how the tax should
WHAT SOME WILL PAY
In giving a breakdown, Rowley said
for a home with an estimated month-
ly rental value of $3,500 the owner
would pay $94.50 monthly in taxes.
A commercial property with an
estimated monthly rental of $10,000
would accrue monthly tax of $450.
For an agricultural property with a
market value of $600,000, Rowley
said the owner would pay a monthly
tax of $10. An industrial property with
a value of $3 million would be $10,800
Industrial machinery not housed in
a building valued at $3 million would
be $450 monthly, while vacant resi-
dential lots valued at $400,000 would
cost $35 monthly.
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