House passes Land Valuation Bill...property tax on the horizon
A DIVIDED House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill ahead of the introduction of the property tax – the Valuation of Land (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
With the Opposition voting against it, the bill, piloted by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, was passed by a 18-14 vote.
Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein said people were resentful of paying property tax when they were not receiving proper government services.
"The rainy season coming up. You will see people's houses flooded out for weeks because they (the Government) failed to clean watercourses in a timely manner, failed to do maintenance through the year, and now they want citizens to take out the little money from their savings to pay property tax."
Hosein cited a Newsday story on December 20, 2009, quoting the Prime Minister as back then fearing the property tax.
He read, "Dr Rowley is rejecting claims that the property tax won't cause hardship. 'I know a lot of people for who $100 is a lot of money. A lot are struggling to make ends meet.'"
Hosein added, "This is Dr Rowley saying this that $100 is a lot of money.
"And then the Minister of Finance is coming today to say, 'Forget that, you could pay $90.' If the member goes into his constituency and comes into my constituency, he will understand the value of $90 to a single mother who has to pay rent and take care of her children."
Hosein further quoted Rowley as decrying the property tax in Parliament in 2009, reading aloud: "In my constituency there is anger, there is anxiety, there is resentment at both ends of the spectrum."
Hosein cited Imbert, in the same 2009 parliamentary debate, as criticising Rowley, quoting: "He speaks with a lot of strength in his voice, but when he speaks the words do not make sense."
Hosein said the budget's estimate of the collection property tax for 2023 was $50 million, to go to local government. He divided $50 million by 14 corporations, saying it would be $3.5 million for each corporation.
"How could that ever reform local government? It is all a mamaguy! $3.5 million could never do that."
"I looked at the demeanour of the Minister of Finance while he was piloting this bill and he was very calm, but you could see the child inside of him excited to introduce a new tax. He was salivating. He cannot wait to tax the people."
Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland interjected, "Is the honourable member now a psychologist?"
Hosein said the public would reject Government over property tax.
Imbert, in his wind-up, said property tax in Singapore was ten per cent of a property's annual rental value, a concept he said was used worldwide, including in Barbados.
"The annual rental value represents the prevailing rent for similar spaces in the rental market." He said penalties for the non-payment of property tax did not involve imprisonment, but just fines.
Imbert said eight out of 13 Caribbean countries with a property tax calculate this from the property's annual rental value.
He said this tax in the UK was typically equivalent to $20,000 and in the US, it is $25,000, but in TT it will be roughly $1,200.
Rejecting Hosein's claim that the allocations to corporations would on average be a paltry $3.5 million, Imbert estimated how much each corporation would get if it collects from all registered properties.
He said Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo will get $44 million, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation $35 million, Tunapuna/Piarco $67 million and Chaguanas $52 million.
"It's not chick peas. It's not peanuts. It is not a trivial sum of money. It is a substantial revenue stream," Imbert said.
"House passes Land Valuation Bill…property tax on the horizon"