THE reintroduction of the property tax which was passed by the Patrick Manning administration in 2009 will not redound to the benefit of citizens but have serious repercussions.
In expressing this opinion, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called on Government to halt its decision “to impose the dreaded property tax as a revenue-stream earner.
“In the midst of a pandemic, when people are really seeing trouble, when businesses have closed, persons have lost jobs by the thousands, this is when you want to bring this inhumane, heartless tax on the citizenry of this country?
“The time is not now,” she said from the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report platform on Monday night.
“Prime Minister, stop the tax. Please take this tax away. Stop it now.”
The property tax was never implemented because Manning lost the 2010 election shortly afterwards, amidst an "Axe the Tax" campaign by the Opposition. The property tax seeks to replace the former land and building tax, which has not been collected for several years.
Whether or not a person owns property, Persad-Bissessar argued, every single person will be adversely affected as owners will pass it on to their customers via their businesses or to their tenants via rent.
In addition to the price of everything going up, she said. this new proposal also makes individuals “criminally liable” should they fail to file the form on time.
Government has advertised that property owners should to file returns with the Valuations Division of the Ministry of Finance by November or face a $5,000 fine.
Persad-Bissessar outlined how she saw the system working.
“Make no bones about it, every single person in possession and or ownership of property will have to pay this property tax.
“Don’t think you are escaping because you don’t own property. Every single owner of property has to file a valuations form with the Valuations Division.
“If you are an owner, you are liable. If you are in possession of property, meaning you may not be an owner – you may be a squatter– you too have to file a form.”
A person occupying a home loaned by a friend or family would also be declared as having a licence to occupy and be in possession of the property, she said, so that person wouldalso have to file.
“Don’t be fooled when they say 'pensioner' and 'persons with disabilities' and so on (would be spared).
“No, no, no, that is a lie. What happens is that you have to ask for a deferral. which they can grant or not grant. and then they change the law that the deferral would only be in effect for two years. So you have to continuously file and file again.”
Persad-Bissessar said in the event of the death of the owner or occupier, the taxes continue to accumulate and whoever comes into the property after is liable to pay that tax.
What was interesting, she observed, is that while there was a push for taxes on the most vulnerable on residential, commercial and agricultural properties, industrial properties were exempt.
But she said properties in this classification would be most lucrative if Government wanted to recover taxes, and questioned whether industrial properties belonged to its friends and families.
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said the UNC rejected the property tax and would continue to fight in and outside the Parliament as Government tried to intimidate and beat people into submission.