Govt’s Property Tax gamble – Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

The T&T Guardian newspaper interviewed Afra Raymond on the issue of the new property tax regime and its re-introduction into the country. Following is the article with the series of Q&As with Editor/Journalist Debra Wanser for the article, published on Sunday, Sep 19 2021. Click here to read the complete article on the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian website

The Government collected $143 million in 2009, the year that the old Property Taxes ended.

The current estimates of the Property Tax to be collected are to the tune of $504 million annually, so that is about three-and-a-half times more than what property owners paid in 2009, according to Afra Raymond, chartered surveyor and managing director of Raymond & Pierre Limited.

The revenue lost over the last 12 years since the axing of the tax could be more than $5.50 billion, Raymond estimated.

Raymond, a past president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC), said the move to implement the Property Tax would be widely unpopular at a time of many burning issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the existing socio-economic situations.

Raymond believes that with only a slim parliamentary majority, the introduction of the new Property Tax will be a considerable gamble for the Government.

T&T is getting set to reintroduce Property Tax as one of the revenue streams which is expected to bring in millions of dollars for the Treasury.

While there is no specific date given for the rollout, the Government has started laying the foundation. They are attempting to populate the valuation roll. The Government has put out advertisements calling on citizens to file information on property and land ownership with the Valuations Division, Ministry of Finance (MOF). If citizens fail to do so by the end of November 2021, they can face a fine of $5,000.

With this move, Property Tax can be levied on residential and commercial properties and agricultural lands.

Raymond felt that the objections from the Opposition United National Congress elements are bemusing, to say the least. This, he said, is for two reasons–”Firstly, the official record of tax collections from 1993 to 2009 as shown in the graph and table below. When the UNC was in power in the seven-year period 1995-2001, there was a dramatic and unexplained decline in the collections of Land & Building Taxes, which are collected in the non-municipal areas. That decline was reversed when the UNC left office. The table and chart give the details, based on my research in the official records of the Ministry of Finance.

“Secondly, the People’s Partnership (PP) used ‘Axe the Tax’ as a strong slogan in the 2010 general election which they won with 29 out of 41 seats. With that rare three-fifths majority in hand, there was tremendous scope for the PP to have lawfully changed or removed any laws or arrangements it wished, without any need for PNM support. Like the Property Tax, for instance. But that never happened, for whatever reason.”

Raymond answers questions on Property tax

You are of the view that the revision of the property tax is long overdue, can you elaborate on the need for this, please.

Yes, Property Tax is long overdue. The last time Property Tax was collected in T&T was in 2009, so 2022–which is next year, which is what is under discussion–would make that a total of 12 years that no taxes were paid by property owners. By any measure, that is a tremendous benefit that has been enjoyed by property owners. In the previous taxation system, the property taxes were called House Rates for the five Municipalities and Land & Building Taxes for the other parts of the country. The five municipalities are Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Point Fortin and Chaguanas.

The national totals of Property Tax paid in the period 1993-2009.
Continue reading “Govt’s Property Tax gamble – Trinidad and Tobago Guardian”

AUDIO: Power 102 FM interview on Property Tax in Trinidad

Afra Raymond was interviewed by Richard Ragoobarsingh and Senator Paul Richards on Power 102FM’s Power Breakfast Show on Property Tax, soon to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago. Audio courtesy Power 102 FM

  • Programme Date: 14 September 2021
  • Programme Length: 00:33:52

Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs part three

property-tax-logoApart from the strong objections to the re-introduction of property tax, there are tantalising points emerging on the need for those taxes to be used to pay for local government services. Local government is one of the sectors which is in most frequent contact with the needs of communities, such as maintenance of drains and playing-fields; garbage collection; road repairs and many other such services.

One of the common positions on this tax is one in which there is no real objection to property tax as such, but there are local government and property valuation concerns expressed. Most of those persons seem to have a strong preference for the property tax to be used to fund their local government services, which then leads to an objection to the valuation approach. Those persons seem to hold the view that the extent to which one property is more valuable than another ought not to be the basis for setting the property taxes, if those properties are using broadly similar levels of local services. One can understand that this approach would appeal to those who own the more valuable properties, but one can equally say that those who own more modest properties would be displeased if their property tax bills were the same as their neighbours with larger and more valuable properties. It is complicated. Continue reading “Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs part three”

Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs part two

property-tax-logoThis week I will provide further necessary correctives on the impending re-introduction of the Property Tax, which is not a new tax. It previously existed as House Rates in the five cities and Land & Building Taxes in the other parts of the country.

Tax Evasion

Self-employed and professionals and sole traders have always under-reported their earnings and never paid the correct taxes. Those people often use property as a useful place to store their untaxed wealth. We have never really dealt with this tradition of tax evasion amongst our successful citizens and I cannot remember anyone being imprisoned or having property auctioned due to taxes owed. Whatever my doubts about the motivation of the American Imperium in pushing its ‘anti-tax haven’ agenda, some things do give cause for a pause. For instance, the Financial Times article of 28 June 2017 – ‘Trinidad & Tobago left as the last blacklisted tax haven‘. Continue reading “Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs part two”

Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs

The recent series of comments on this Property Tax have prompted my return to this controversial issue. Some of those comments were;

The proposed Property Tax has three main differences from the old system which ended in 2009 –

  1. Revised Valuations – It will be based on updated valuations. In 2009 $143M was raised, the 2017 estimates were for $503M to be raised – the 2018 estimate is $250M, likely due to the delay in passing the required law and the ongoing litigation which is now at the Appeal Court level;
  2. Database – It will require an open database for proper operation. This open database is the decisive element, which I welcome;
  3. Funds – The old system allocated those monies to local government, but the new system directs the Property Tax revenue to the consolidated fund. In my view that is detrimental to proper local government.

Property owners have had an unprecedented tax holiday, with no property tax paid since 2009. At a minimum, using the lower 2009 revenues, $1.287 Billion more remained with our property-owners.

I will touch on three of the most common objections – Continue reading “Property Matters – more Property Tax FAQs”

Property Tax Setbacks

property-tax-logo
devant-anandThe High Court issued a ruIing by Justice Frank Seepersad on Friday 19 May 2017 that the Valuation Return Forms (VRFs) which property owners had been required to complete for the implementation of the Property Tax was to be subject to a “….stay of the implementation and/or enforcement…”. That stay is pending the full hearings of the judicial review case brought by former AG, Anand Ramlogan SC, on behalf of former PP Minister, Devant Maharaj. The State has already filed an appeal and that is to be heard at the Appeal Court on Monday 22nd May 2017.

This important national policy is now before the Courts for determination as to the legality of its implementation at this time. To be sure, there are sharp political rivalries at stake here and heavy questions of how do we attain good public administration. Continue reading “Property Tax Setbacks”

AUDIO: Property Tax interview on 96.1FM

This is my interview on 96.1 FM with Nikki Crosby on Tuesday 2nd May 2017…this was a great session with Tweez…Rodey and Raw Fusion…there were also some engaging ‘phone calls and text messages from the public. Audio courtesy TTRN

Programme Date: 2 May 2017
Programme Length: 00:34:37