Government Minister, Allyson West, stated clearly in the Senate yesterday (Tuesday 11th January 2022) that the Government will not be suspending its roll-out of the property tax and, as of now, the deadline for submission of property tax valuation return forms remain at 31st January 2022.
The Government previously extended that deadline in November 2021. Earlier that month, when responding to an urgent question in Parliament from Opposition Chief Whip David Lee, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the Valuation Division of the Ministry of Finance had not received the required 200,000 valuation return forms needed to proceed with the implementation of property tax. He said then that the total number of returns for residential properties at that time was 165,000. However, according to the law, Government needs to receive 200,000 valuation return forms before the process of implementation of property tax can commence.
Failure to submit the valuation return form by the deadline date constitutes a criminal offence that is punishable by a fine of $5,000 under Section 32 of the Valuation of Land Act.
At the Senate sitting on Tuesday, Opposition Senator Wade Mark asked Minister West whether the Government would consider suspending the filing of information on property and land ownership, given the growing concerns of citizens because of the Government’s accelerated initiative to populate the property valuation roll.
Minister West responded to the question by saying, “Madam President, the Government does not intend to suspend the gathering and filing of returns of property as it would result in a wastage of scarce resources, time and effort.”
West, the Public Administration Minister, said as evidenced by Clause 78 of the Local Government Reform Bill currently before the Parliament, it is the intention of Government to empower local Government corporations, regardless of their political affiliation, to collect and retain residential property tax. She explained that this measure is designed to provide local Government corporations with a significant and sustainable income stream for their projects and programmes.
Minister West added, “Any move to suspend the process of population of the valuation rolls would therefore undermine this initiative and weaken the local Government reform process.”
When further question by Senator Mark whether it was the intention of Government to allocate 100% of the property tax to local Government bodies, Minister West said she could not give a percentage but reiterated that the intention was to allocate residential property tax to local Government.
Senator Mark asked what would it take for the Government to reconsider its position in seeking to impose this “draconian” property tax which the people cannot afford to bear. However, President of the Senate, Christine Kangaloo said that question was not allowed.
Minister West later advised that she was unable to provide information as to when the population of the valuation roll will be completed. She said the current exercise was ongoing and at the end of the period “we would be in a better position to indicate when we think we would have obtained the minimum number of valuations required to commence the collection of property tax.”
It is therefore possible that the deadline date could be once again extended if the Government does not receive the required 200,000 return forms by 31st January 2022.
This is a developing story - refresh this page for updates.
[Source: Trinidad Express]
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