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Imbert’s Fake News on Property Tax

Published: 
Friday, June 1, 2018

When at least two daily newspapers accurately reported on Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s responses to questions on the taxing of dog houses, fowl coups, duck pens, gazeebos and temples prosed by the Leader of the Opposition, Imbert had the ministry issue an immediate denial and charges of ‘fake news’. (Read the Ministry’s Release at https://www.finance.gov.tt/media-release-property-owners-do-not-have-to-...).

The release was titled Media Release - PROPERTY OWNERS DO NOT HAVE TO PAY FOR FOWL COOPS, DUCK PONDS OR DOG HOUSES.

The release itself turns out to be really fake news.

The fact is that property owners DO HAVE TO PAY Property Tax for any structures on their premises.

How? Because every separate structure on their parcel of land will be included in the valuation of their ‘property’ to arrive at the Annual Rental Value that is used to decide the amount of Property Tax to be paid.

His release confirmed that, saying: “The Minister of Finance simply responded to the query from the Leader of Opposition by clarifying that properties would be valued based on the value of the raw land associated with the property, plus the value of any buildings thereon.”

It emphasized, “The Minister also clarified that the minimum annual rental value in the Bill….. would not be imposed for each of the items mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but rather ….. the property would be valued in its totality.”

In other words, the dog house, fowl coop and duck pond WILL HAVE TO BE PAID FOR AS PART OF THE TOTALITY OF THE PROPERTY TO BE VALUED!

So if we do not have to pay for each structure valued separately but we have to pay for each valued as part of the total value, somehow mystically we are not paying for them? Really, Mr Imbert?

When he fired off his ‘fake news’ release the next day (Tuesday) perhaps he forgot that although the Hansard written record of his statements was not immediately available, the video record of every word he said in Parliament was.

From the Parliament website, the Parliament Channel video is almost immediately available. Anyone can go to http://parlview.ttparliament.org/xrender/ and look at the May 28 debate.

Well, well. This is just another episode in which in his eagerness to impose this Property Tax, the Finance Minister has not been ‘completely accurate’ in his information about the tax.

In the very release, another instance of his misleading statements is included.

“The Minister also clarified that the minimum annual rental value in the bill, of $18,000 per year, which would result in a property tax of $40 per month…” This is what his release says.

In speaking, he went on to explain that if the value of the dog house etc. is small, a couple thousand dollars or there are no structures at all and the total annual rental value of the property is less than $18,000, the property will be valued at $18,000.

The Property Tax is an ANNUAL TAX (see sections 31, 32, 33) and is NOT calculated per month nor is it payable MONTHLY or by monthly instalments.

But, the Minister continues to try and disguise the amount of the Property Tax by talking about ‘a property tax of $40 per month.”

This Property Tax on a ‘bare piece of land’, as he puts it, with a minimum valuation of $18,000 will be $486 per year.

The Lands & Building Tax for a property owner with a bare piece of residential land was $10.

So, by keeping referring to a monthly tax of so-and-so which doesn’t exist, the Finance Minister tries to hide the fact that the minimum increase in tax by the change to Property Tax $486 – 10 = $476 or 476 times the minimum tax paid in 2009.

The difference in tax paid for a residential property in 2009 and what will be paid whenever the Property Tax finally has to be paid will be much more. For example, L&B Tax paid in 2009 on a three-bedroom house was less than $100 and at a rental value of $4500 per month or annual rental value of $54,000 the Property Tax will be $1,458.

The Finance Minister needs to be totally honest with property owners and the population as a whole about this Property Tax.

We have no need for his fake news.

Clyde Weatherhead

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