Former minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications Vasant Bharath says the Government is hitting citizens a double whammy with its implementation of property tax while COVID-19 is hampering people's finances globally.
Speaking on Aakash Vani 106.5 FM’s Morning Panchayat yesterday, Bharath said requiring people to pay property tax now will not assist the economy, the man in the street or businesses. He said it would force citizens to pay an additional tax whether they own a property or not. He believes landlords would increase rent once the government implements the tax. Furthermore, businesses will compensate by increasing the prices of the goods or services they offer. It includes gas, rent, food, clothes, books and medicine.
“For me at this point in time, it makes no sense, other than the government attempting to raise revenue because it failed to do so in any other form for the past six years," Bharath said.
He also finds it repressive as it targets pensioners and people living with disabilities. As it stands, these categories of people would have to apply for a temporary exemption biennially. If a property owner dies, the tax remains applicable, and the estate remains liable to pay.
Bharath said there was confusion about who is liable to pay property tax as the government cannot properly educate people on the incoming mandate.
He said he has no problem with taxes imposed on properties as this is a law in many other countries, including first world nations like the United Kingdom and the United States of America. He said there should be benefits of paying taxes for property owners as in many parts of the world, there is a direct correlation between implementing the payment of the tax and the improvement of government services, such as better schools, roads and drains.
However, Bharath expects the collection of property tax to go into the Consolidated Fund, which the government may not use in a similar manner. He said the government's timing was contradictory, explaining that their global counterparts are trying to alleviate the financial pressures on their citizens because of the impact of COVID-19.
Here in T&T, many people lost their jobs, and Bharath said some are unemployable because of the lack of opportunities available.
"Many businesses, for example, closed down, or many of them have reduced their operations. Therefore, to put an additional tax on businesses and individuals, I think is contradictory to what the government should be doing at this point in time. Government really needs to be leaving as much money in people’s hands as possible and that, of course, means less taxation.”
Bharath also called it discriminatory. He said people who sacrificed to maintain or extend their homes over the years, would have to pay more than someone who partied away their money and did not maintain their property. He said it was like the government penalising a homeowner for sacrificing for a comfortable life. He said there are also hefty penalties, including levying your property.