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Imbert gives 2-week bligh

Property Tax rush too much for offices
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
A security officer assists a member of the public outside the Ministry of Finance's Valuation Division at Palm's Club, San Fernando, yesterday.

Members of the public can ease up on the rush—Government is moving to extend the date for submission of Property Tax Valuation forms from Monday May 22 to June 5.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced yesterday he’ll recommend to today’s Cabinet meeting that the deadline for submitting forms be extended by two weeks from Monday.

In a statement, Imbert said the move is being made due to the overwhelming response by property owners over the last few days to submit their Valuation Return Forms. He said an announcement on the extension will be made shortly after today’s Cabinet meeting.

Government had given May 22 as the deadline for submission of the forms, accompanied by as many of the 13 requested supporting documents—deeds, bills, 2009 property tax receipt—as home owners could supply.

Submission of the information is the first phase of Government’s property tax exercise aimed at collecting some $500 million.

On the basis of the information and possible field visits later on, property rental values will be assessed and taxes will be formulated on the basis of this.

All of this week, however, Valuation offices around T&T—including Tobago—have been reporting very long lines and a huge “rush” of people seeking to submit forms and documents in order to beat Monday’s deadline.

Yesterday, people were lined up outside of the Port-of-Spain Valuation office from 6 am, after that office opened early to accommodate demand. At 10.45 am, there was still a long line of people and officers made accommodations in the building to get them out of the sun.

To prevent excessive lines, a security officer was outside on the pavement distributing forms to people who needed them. To attend to the large numbers, tents were set up at the back of the building where officers also dealt with individuals.

Colin Hamilton, who went to the PoS office at 7.05, said he was out in 10 minutes.

“Job well done, keep up the great work. It shows there are public servants who are considerate of those they’re employed to serve,” Hamilton told the T&T Guardian.

Similar comments came from Kyron Ramoo about the San Fernando process, where he said lines were long but moving quickly.

Officials said the PoS office is expected to obtain drop-off boxes by the end of the week for home owners to deposit their packages. Similar boxes are expected to be supplied to other Valuation offices, valuation supervisors added. For home owners who drop packages off into the box, their receipt for submission of the information will be sent in the mail, supervisors added.

Senior officers at several regional offices said their staff was stretched to the limit in handling the exercise. Valuation supervisors said 500 more staffers will be in place from Monday to assist the various offices.

Business people are very anxious they’ll have to pay millions in property tax and poor people are scared the tax will “drive them under” in the current recession, UNC’s Devant Maharaj said yesterday.

“It’s an unconstitutional law - people must resist it. If it’s been found recently that 79 per cent of HDC people who have mortgages don’t pay the mortgage, how will they pay the tax?” Maharaj said.

“Our concern is the method being used and how it’s being done. Among the grounds in our pre-action letter, we’ve stated the Valuation rolls being used are non-compliant with certain schedules, as they seek private information.

“The Valuation form also violates the right to privacy, since it seeks certain information from people. It also fails to draw attention to the fact that non-submission could lead to summary conviction and a $500 fine.”

Maharaj acknowledged Imbert recently said he wouldn’t pursue moves towards court action that would demand the fine. But he said because Government didn’t advise on the matter properly, people could face sanctions.


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