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Proliferation of Fact and Fiction in the Property Tax Debacle
Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

By Stephen Kangal - Caroni
October 07, 2009


This ill-conceived, thief-in-the night and fiscally obscene property tax is being driven and confused by a conflicting and contradictory interplay of the contending forces of fact and fiction. In one fell swoop all proud resident home-owners of T&T have been reduced to fictitious renters paying fictitiously high rents way beyond their (f)actual salaries in order to arrive at an artificial and fictitious annual taxable value (ATV) for one's fictitiously rented home. They have even thrown in the factual two-month compensatory renting hiatus period to arrive at the fictitious, unreal ATV.

To suggest that T&T pays currently the "antiquated" 1948 determined taxes is pure fiction since property evaluation has been on-going. A thorough property valuation for tax purposes was done in 1969. Dr Williams refused to proceed. Another was completed in 1978 and a third in the late 1990's.

The cities and boroughs pay 2004 determined taxes. Even more outlandish and fictitious is to suggest that the new minted tax with every criteria being new is an old tax even though new legislation will be tabled in Parliament. Fictitiously the new 3% - determined annual tax applicable to residences is being projected as reduction on the current 7% (2004) rate even though the former ATV is 10 and 20 times greater than the latter. That is to say that 3 over 100 x $60,000 is less than 7 over 100 x $6,000. Enill's and Manning's tax reducing property tax is accordingly pure, unadulterated fiction being foisted on the unthinking PNM till I die political loyalists.

Ministers including the Honourable Prime Minister Manning and the highly paid spin doctors do not have the rest of us in mind when they speak to the nation or in the Parliament having regard to the depths of sheer stupidity and crooked thinking to which they have degenerated when they open their mouths on the property tax. They are scraping the barrels for a defence of their fiscally obscene madness.

While installed plant and machinery in industrial properties is factually subject to depreciation annually by accounting standards the annual six per cent property tax to be levied on these properties is fictitiously incorrect in that it ignores and in fact does not take into account depreciation of the physical plant. The original cost of building/installation is the tax criterion. This is frozen in time and space. Senator Mariano Browne discredits all critics for displaying factual ignorance for in his genre of convoluted thinking even though their responses are very legitimate and convincingly presented are fictitious. Only he and Minister Enill know the real facts that are hidden from what they pretend, as selected senators, is a fictitious electorate. We do not exist for them. They have no constituencies.

The latest barrel-scraping fiction invoked by Senator Browne to the PNM women is that the Opposition has been stirring protests against the tax. That comment is designed to make the issue politically partisan if not fictitiously ethnic driven. Previously he attributed the display of ignorance by knowledgeable critics to lack of information given by Finance Minister Tesheira. When will he invoke a political we-they agenda?

The estimated property tax revenues are all fictitiously incorrect like numbers in a whe-whe lottery. Any number can play on the turf ranging from $75m (Enil) to $325m (Enil) to $750m (Tesheira) to the most recent fabrication of $160m-$170m (Browne). This in the face of the fact that the measure according to the gospels of Browne and Enill is a fictitious tax reduction one because all the estimates are above $125m. A fictitious year 2004 is used as the base year for valuation purposes although the real rental statistics should have been 2009 rental rates. They will drop the real, onerous and factual one on us next fiscal 2010/11 like a ton of bricks by which time the law would have become a fait accompli.

A fictitious equity that is based on tax equality will be achieved by the new across-the-board tax rates even if there is a factually wide and glaring disparity in the living conditions between tax-payers in the urban and rural settlements. That situation constitutes a crucial and extremely relevant equitable criterion that must be factored into the tax determination process if a fictitious equity is to be avoided. It will be a fiction doing all manner of harm to all and sundry to assess all homes for tax purposes located in the same neighbourhood equally. Paying the huge tax is made fictitiously easy at many tax collection centres since it will be factually impossible for pensioners, dissenters and low wage earners to find the money.

This property tax is in fact and not fiction a disguised reduction on the fixed incomes of 200,000 struggling pensioners. It is also a disguised reverse mortgage for pensioners and low wage earners. This is no different from the 10% cut in public servants salaries for which the NAR paid the ultimate electoral price. The unsolicited agony, tears, mental anguish and stress of pensioners will fall upon the perpetrators of this dastardly and oppressive tax burden and invaders of the privacy of our homes. Karma will take its toll in the fullness of time.

The dishonest intention to provide improved community services via the tax is a figment of the imagination because revenues will be lumped into the Consolidated Fund like the Health Surcharge, Road Tax, Unemployment Levy and Green Fund and abused. The Local Government entities are due for closure and scaling down with centralization in Port of Spain. These local entities will perform a monitoring role with no teeth nor control over service-delivery resources. The Special Purpose State Companies that are in fact not fictitious will be spending these millions without any obligation to conduct their operations in accordance with the requisite accounting and performance standards.

Property tax reform is a fiction - a slippery "wabeen" - a fašade to hoodwink the apathetic population and make fiscal exploitation factually real and politically insensitive. It will fuel arrogance and unrest in Trinidad and Tobago. It represents the barometer to measure and gauge the rising pressure and socio-political turbulence of all that is amiss in the state of Denmark.

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