Another Imbertian Bungling on The Property Tax

By Stephen Kangal
September 11, 2017

Stephen KangalMinister of Finance Colm Imbert is bent on foisting another layer of ministerial-imposed, badly- conceptualised tax bureaucracy on the hapless and besieged expansive property – owning class of Trinbago by his most recent concoction of a new land- tax regime to temporarily replace the still-legally admissible 2009 Property Tax Act. This Tax Regime has been the Achilles Heel of the PNM in that they bungled its implementation since Proclamation on 31st December 2009.

It appears from what is carried in the Sunday Express that he has abandoned the conventional valuation criteria of capital value and rental value and is using size and use/classification exclusively. So that a 5,000 sq.ft lot of residential land (new definition) located in POS will attract the same tax burden as a similar residential lot located in Caroni that is to say $350. That will be a 3500% increase over the Land and Building Taxes regime of 1948. Equity has been abandoned once again.

He plans to waive for the period 2016-2019 imaginary taxes that were not due nor quantified nor calculated on the basis of the criteria contained in the 2009 Act. In my view there are no property tax outstanding and therefore no need to waive a non-existent tax as this can only be done in accordance with law and the up-to-date valuations conducted by the Commissioner of Valuations.

This man is groping helplessly in the dark consistent with his dwen image but convinced that he can collect the new Land Tax by 1 October 2017 when he could not collect the 2009 Property Tax after an interregnum of eight years after proclamation.

This new tax escapade/land regime will be met by so much opposition that the previous steps will be considered as a tea party. The minister has not thought out things thoroughly again and will conduct us along an unnecessary path of utmost confusion and uncertainty.

The latter is still on our law books. It will be placed again into suspended animation by Imbert’s own devious manipulation that cannot stand the test of legal scrutiny because they cannot be operative concurrently because of:

  1. contradictions relating to taxing lands exclusively without properties being included as is proposed in the new Land Tax Bill 2017.
  2. He has given land a new definition that excludes houses and buildings that is inconsistent with the 2009 Act.
  3. The 2009 Act is based on the prevailing rental value of land and therefore location plays a decisive determining role in achieving the desired equity.

While September 30, 2017 was the date for the inauguration of his now abandoned but complicated and complex property tax he has now put it back to 2019. He proposes to amend the relevant suite of legislation that we all pointed out was obsolete and in urgent need of consequential amendments post- 2010.

Contrary to the advice proffered by legal Counsel Ms Deborak Peake SC this development relating to proposed amendments to the Property Tax Act, The Valuation of Land Act and the introduction of a new Land Tax Bill 2017 will impact quite negatively on the forthcoming challenge of the legal validity of the 2009 regime because they collectively are an admission of the inability of the state to defend the legal integrity of these Acts of 2009 and to implement it as stipulated quite rigidly in the 2009 Act including rigid time-frames and dates.

What is really needed is a comprehensive and clinical approach to determining the full range of amendments that must be introduced including whether Section 4 and 5 of the Constitution are being violated by the original 2009 provisions. The Minister must wait the Judgment of the Court that is the final law-determining agency and not give precedence to the opinion of Senior Counsel who has indeed mislead the Ministry in the most recent past.

5 thoughts on “Another Imbertian Bungling on The Property Tax”

  1. Completely concur with this well researched article. It is very true that because of the shortfall of 11 billion dollars by the treasury, this minister is trying to enact laws by his own call of re-defining land i.e., residential land. Rural lands and urban lands of the same acreage will bear the same tax. The problem with this administration is they are terribly failing in their bid to implement without much thought process.

  2. The expectation of sensible, logical thinking by all branches of this government has already been diffused by a plethora of bungling and incompetence.
    This Finance minister is dangerously incompetent and unqualified. The PM’s loyalty to this Minister and his deference to Imbert on leading fiscal policies in T&T will eventually have serious consequences.
    Bring back Mariano Browne.

  3. Cabinet, Parliament, the Media and the People have been fooled and misled by Minister Imbert on too many occasions previously on the taxation of property. Cabinet must reject this Note and send it back to Imbert as being badly timed and too optimistic one week before the Court Judgment on the 2009 Act. What will the Court have to say on this development? Give the Finance Ministry to Le Blanc and save us from the escalating incompetence of Imbert.

  4. OJT government at work, making it up as they go. The PNM is starved of brain power because of their history of mediocrity and putting square pegs in round holes.

    The Minister of Finance position is one of the most important in the entire cabinet. Sure a person must have an understanding of how to add balance to the economy. The Property tax issue has been poorly thought out and handled.
    (1) Property Tax by it names mean the money raise is used to enhance the value of your property. Meaning good roads,garbage, lighting, schools, police service…
    (2) It is a tax that is collected and spent in the area where it is collected. Both Dr.Rowley and Minister Franklyn Khan embraced that idea but appears to have no say on the issue.
    (3) To take money from rural areas and put it in the general fund is a morally reprehensible idea. The PNM is an urban party and has show their interest only in their supporters. That is why such tax should be resisted.
    (4) Trinidad does not need such a tax due to the vast amount of natural resource available. The patrimony of the nation belongs to the people. However a lot of that patrimony is in over seas accounts.

  5. Parliament has been adjourned sine die. It will be prorogued and the Budget will be presented at the next Session on 2 October When will Imbert present his Land Bill to start on 1 October 2017?

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