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Property tax in effect from 2016

Published: 
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Ministry of Finance ad states...

The Ministry of Finance has signalled to property owners that the Government proposes to collect property tax for the 2016 calendar year as well as for 2017.

The issue of the Government collecting the property tax for 2016 was first made in a newspaper advertisement published on Monday, at the start of the Ministry of Finance’s public education outreach programme this week as promised by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

The advertisement, repeated in a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance yesterday, stated:

“The Government has waived the payment of the property tax for the period 2010 to 2015, as such the tax is payable with effect from 2016.”

That comment from the Ministry of Finance is supported by the amendment to the Finance Act 2015, which states:

“Notwithstanding any written law to the contrary, the payment of any tax under this act shall be waived for the period January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2015,” suggesting that the property tax is payable with effect from January 1, 2016.

On Monday, the T&T Guardian asked an official at the Ministry of Finance “if the tax is payable with effect from 2016, is it to be understood that the Government proposes to collect property tax for both 2016 and 2017? If the answer is yes, can levying for 2016 be defined as a retroactive tax?”

The Ministry of Finance official did not respond to the question of whether the Government proposed to collect property tax for both 2016 and 2017.

But on the issue of retroactivity, the official said:

“The usual definition of a retroactive tax is one that is introduced in the law at a particular time, but payable back to a time before the tax was enacted, so using this definition that would not be a retroactive tax.”

The Government’s proposal to reintroduce the property tax has drawn a great deal of public comment, much of which has been negative, with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar tearing up a Valuation Return Form and urging citizens not to pay the tax at a public meeting of the United National Congress at the Water Park in Debe on Sunday.

But last night, at a meeting of the ruling People’s National Movement in Diego Martin, Finance Minister Colm Imbert defended the Government’s reintroduction of the property tax, saying Government needed the money in order to help it balance its 2017 budget.

In its first budget, for the 2016 fiscal year, Imbert said the Government remained “convinced that property tax is a modern and fair tax, which is generally paid in all advanced, emerging and developing countries.”

He said then the Government would take steps to amend certain legislative provisions, including the determination of rates and implement the existing Property Tax Act 2009 “with a view to having a fair and equitable property tax regime in place by January 1, 2016, using the old levels and old rates as a starting point.”

But in the 2017 budget presentation, Imbert said: “Based on legal advice with respect to the constitutionality of the proposal to collect the same quantum of land and building taxes collected in 2009, the Government was unable to collect property taxes in fiscal 2016.”

He said the Government will collect the tax in 2017.