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Imbert: Organised political mischief against property tax

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Finance Minister Colm Imbert is alleging there is “organised political mischief” against the property tax, but he is insisting that the average person will pay one hundred dollars a month and the minimum at the lowest end will be forty dollars a month.

Speaking at a political meeting in Barataria on Thursday night, Imbert made reference to a recent letter to the editor from someone by the name of Lystra Maharaj from Glencoe, who wrote that she had been visited by property tax assessors and was “alarmed by the information” requested.

But having “smelt a rat” Imbert said he questioned the officers at the Valuation Division and asked them to check the database.

“The number of records with the name Lystra Maharaj in Glencoe is zero,” he said.

In addition, Imbert said, he was assured by the division that no field inspections had been done in the Glencoe community.

“This is organised political interest. Why are they afraid of the property tax?” he asked.

Imbert said he had read a post on the UNC’s Facebook page where they worked out a scenario in which the head of a household earning $6,000 a month, who had a mortgage of $2500 would pay property tax of $300 a month.

“They say the property tax will bust this person,” he said.

But he said anyone earning $6,000 a month or under did not pay tax and he found it strange that a bank would approve a mortgage of $2500 a month for someone working for $6,000 per month..

Imbert said property tax was calculated on 3 per cent of the rental value of the property.

“In order to pay $300 a month, your rent has to be $12,000 a month, but they say the person earning $6,000 they trying to frighten people,” he said.

He again assured that recipients of senior citizens’ pension or disability grants or food cards, or those whose total income was equal to or less than $3500 did not have to pay property tax.

Imbert, who had earlier painted a positive picture of the economy, repeated his statement when he presented the mid term review that he could “see clearly now.”

Pointing to some of the positives, he said gas production had increased by 25 per cent to four billion cubic feet a day up from the previous three billion cubic feet a day from which the Government had expected to collect $21.9 billion in taxes including VAT, personal income tax, corporation tax, business levy and royalty at the end of April.

“We ended up collecting $23.2 billion, the first time I ever saw those kind of numbers,” he said.

Imbert said: “There are so-called economists who like to bad talk the Government. They don’t like these numbers because they like to say we incompetent.”

“Things are looking much better than we expected, but we not out of the woods yet. We still have a huge gap between revenue from taxes and expenditure,” he said.

It is for this reason he is hoping to raise $4 billion from the National Investment Fund Company Limited, which will hold the assets recovered from Clico and CL Financial, which includes 26 per cent shareholding in Republic Bank and shares in Witco.

The NIF holdings also include the 23 per cent which the Government owns in One Caribbean Media Limited and Trinidad Generation Company (TGU).

Imbert said within the next month the NIF was going to offer bonds to the general public.

The Finance Minister said the Government had decided to offer bonds for five, 12 and 20 years. The five-year bonds will carry a rate of four-and-a-half per cent, the 12-year, five-and-a-half per cent and the 20-year bonds will have an interest rate of six- and- a-half per cent.

Imbert encouraged persons to invest in the fund saying “those interest rates are guaranteed and there is an added benefit as the interest on the bonds will be tax free.”

The beauty of all of this, he said, was that the dividends from the companies would pay back for the bonds as they mature and people who invest will have the option to roll them over or cash them in when they mature.

He said the interest rate of four-and-a-half per cent for five years was guaranteed, but government wanted to make it more attractive, so it could be more.

“Imagine you getting a Government bond that earning four-and-a-half per cent guaranteed and you can sell the bond if you get into trouble,” he said.

Imbert said the assets in the NIF were over TT$8 billion.

“So I can raise the bonds of four billion and the dividends from the extra four billion will go into a sinking fund to pay for the bond, and as the companies do better, the value of the companies will appreciate so we will have the money to pay back for the bonds,” he added.

He said the Government had been doing market research and talking to investors to see how they would respond the offering coming from the Government.

He said with the feedback received “this will be a winner.”

He said the monies earned from the issuance of the bonds would help balance the budget for 2018.


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