8 Hrs Ago
WHILE Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said he is looking forward to property tax payments helping TT to survive a $15-billion budget deficit this year, questions arose on Friday as to his ministry’s ability to initiate the tax.
Former minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West told Newsday that as of last March, insufficient properties were registered to legally trigger the property tax. She was unsure where things stood now.
Newsday sent Imbert a WhatsApp message asking what proportion of households had sent in details and how the exercise was proceeding to assess each property’s annual rental value as the basis for the tax, but up to press time he had not replied. Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Brian Manning, told Newsday, “I have no comment at this time.”
Newsday got some insights from West, who is Minister of Public Administration, who up until last month had also been minister in the ministry of finance, with a focus on tax matters.
Asked how many property details had been submitted and how the valuations were going, West said, “I don’t have that information. I used to track it but I haven’t for some time, so I don’t know what the up-to-date figure is.”
Newsday asked if the last time she had checked, the registered properties would have passed 50 per cent of all properties.
“It would not have got to 50 per cent of houses up to when I checked it, because that is the common trigger for starting the property tax.
“In the legislation it currently says we can start imposing the tax once we have got to that benchmark. And it is not households, it is properties,” she noted.
“But I don’t know where it is now.”
West said she had last checked on it in March.
Newsday asked about the calculation of rentable values for each property.
“Well, what they are trying to determine is a reasonable market rental for each property.”
Newsday asked if there was any standardisation of this process that could speed up valuations
“Standardisation depends on the nature of the property. So for example, if you are looking at 1 Woodbrook Place, you can safely value all the one-bedrooms at one rate, the two-bedrooms at another rate and so on.
“But if you go into developments where you have different-style houses, you will have to do it on an individual-type basis.”
Newsday asked if the ministry could meet its timeline to implement the tax.
“I didn’t at that time have a clear sense as to when we would have gotten to the trigger point. I don’t know. They may be in a better position now to assess that, but as I said I don’t have that information.”
She said about one to two years ago the ministry had hired a lot of new staff to help in the fieldwork for this exercise. Asked if she would like to express confidence the ministry has the resources to initiate the property tax, she replied, “I would leave that to the minister (Imbert.)”