Colm created tax confusion

By Raffique Shah
May 23, 2017

Raffique ShahFinance Minister Colm Imbert must shoulder much of the blame for the fiasco that a relatively simple exercise, the submission of information for the valuation of properties across the country, has degenerated into. The overwhelming response by property owners to abide by the law, hence flock the few Valuation Division offices where they could drop off their forms or get help filling them out, should have surprised no one. That the ministry was unprepared for the rush is an indictment against the minister and his senior advisors.

Two weeks ago, in this space, I warned Imbert that there was no way Valuation could cope with an estimated 30,000 persons per day, even if all of them were simply dropping off completed documents. The minister, displaying his trademark arrogance, said he was not about to extend the deadline beyond May 22. He later backed off a bit, allowing an extra two weeks, which is still woefully inadequate. Ideally, as I wrote then, given that this was a completely new valuation exercise covering an estimated 600,000 properties, it might require one year.

I don’t know if he and the Government felt that large numbers of citizens would heed the dotishness of the opposition, tear up the forms and refuse to comply with the law. That could be the only explanation for his high-handedness, threatening prosecution for those who failed to comply. If that was the rationale behind the duress he applied to the law-abiding, then it shows how little they know about the character-traits and culture of their own people.

Listen Sam, you really think people, especially from among the poorer and middle classes, took on Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her idiotic call for them to ignore the valuation exercise? From as far back as in colonial times, up until it was suspended in 2010, the one tax that people paid up early o’clock, meaning at the beginning of each year, was what was called Land and Building Tax-and I’ll tell you why.

That humble-to-modest house on a lot or two of land, or a small acreage of agricultural land, was all these people owned. They weren’t about to risk losing them to government because of their failure to pay property tax which they knew was universal: they might cheat on income tax (not evade-that’s for the wealthy!), squeeze past VAT and so on. But challenge them on property tax and they will wave stacks of ancient receipts in your face.

So, except for a few thousand diehard Kamla supporters who deify her like “Kali Mai”, people will pay property tax. What angers them is the abuse they must suffer as they seek to comply: hours-long queues with no shelter or seats, which could have been avoided if the exercise had begun immediately after passage of the last Budget. And what will anger them even more are the likely inconsistencies in valuation and other discriminatory, even corrupt, impositions from those charged with assessing properties and determining tax levels.

You know how it would hurt if you with your modest house have to pay more than others who own mansions but have “connections”, or worse, people you know who escape the Property Tax net completely because of collusion with officials or the incompetence of those charged with administering the law?

Already, all regular employees in the private and public sectors, daily- and monthly-paid, bear the burden of personal income tax (PAYE), which is deducted by their employers before they are paid. Similarly, businesses big and small that operate above board contribute most to corporation tax and VAT. Tens of thousands of others, from self-employed tradesmen and small-but-lucrative vendors to top professionals and large business operators pay much less than they ought to, or nothing at all.

In other words, the law-abiding pay up, the lawless don’t. And when you hear the latter moan about wastage of “mih tax dollars”, you’d weep for them, or if you know, laugh at them.

These unjust loopholes in our tax laws that have been around seemingly forever must not be allowed to permeate the new property taxation system. The public officers who are charged with administering and policing the tax must be held to exacting standards. They must face stiff jail if they engage in unfair assessments or corruption.

Since the issue of the valuation forms and procedures is before the courts, I’ll say no more on that. But on her curious, though not unexpected, stance on the Property Tax, I ask “Kali Mai” and her be-mansioned disciples: if you so believe that the Tax is punitive, why did you not repeal it during your five-year and three-month tenure when you had the requisite majority to so do?

I shan’t comment further on Colm’s know-it-all arrogance that has frequently landed him in trouble in his many political incarnations. You cannot teach and old dog new tricks, and the word humility does not exist in the dog-dictionary.

Woof! Woof!

4 thoughts on “Colm created tax confusion”

  1. It is a worldwide phenomenon that the brightest and the best avoid politics. T&T is no different. The last government was riddled with firings due to inexperience, incompetence and a lack of appropriate qualifications. The present government is no different. The inability to communicate effectively is the principal characteristic of the Communications Minister who is the poster child for an incompetent gang which includes the Prime Minister. Elections reshuffle the chairs but leaves the same two gangs drowning in their borrowed foreign adopted jargon as they wave their UWI bogus certificates above water.

  2. ”…I don’t know if he and the Government felt that large numbers of citizens would heed the dotishness of the opposition…”
    The confusion on the property tax began in November 2009 by Finance Minister Karen Tesheira and Patos that precipitated their political waterloo in May 2010.
    Colm does not appreciate that this issue is a political flash-point and may still usher in much political negative fall-out because the electorate rejected this tax regime in the 2010 elections.
    What is being transacted is not the law according to now Colm and stated by Mr Justice Seepersad. Kamla was right to tear it up in public because it was not even Schedule II. She protested the amendment of the law by the circumvention of Parliament. How could Colm issue a sanction penalty of $500.00 when the implementation of the non-self -executing Acts 17 and 18 of 2009 to date has not even begun 8 years after it was intended to commence on 1 January 2010? Where the rolls and has the Commissioner of Valuations issued his registered personalised Schedule II mail to land-owners that he ought to have done since 1 April 2010 according to law (Act 17 of 2009)?
    Raff I have written five commentary letters/posts on this blog explaining the anatomy, physiology and autopsy of this tax and even published a booklet on this subject in 2010.
    This is stale-dated law. It will be declared unconstitutional, null and void and cause enormous damage to the current PNM from many fronts.
    Many of those who lined up to submit forms were squatters seeking letters of comfort to legal possession of state lands.
    Colm is playing Parliament and is guilty of contempt of court. It is not physically possible for him to be brought down to size unfortunately. But this is a doomsday scenario legally speaking

  3. Shah you need to look beyond. These two short men are guided by the World Bank and the IMF who are demanding before the end of the year they re install the Property Tax. Yeah they were roughed up by them. For them to get money from them to run the government and satisfy the high class who runs business there, they must comply. They need the white man…they are the uncle toms we must get rid of ever since 1956. They are the suck ups. Anyway, these business groups In T&T who finance their election plans are now threatening them behind closed doors to remove the outside competition the UNC brought in or they will pull their financial support. They want things for them in T&T great again. Remember the UNC survived on a very high oil and gas revenue base. PNM puts resources and monies back in the filthy rich pockets while they beg them for billions in loans to live good. We are just the dregs. But God doh sleep. This year is Judgement year.

  4. mr shaw please stop giving your one side option we are tired of it. pnm never care about people including you unless you are getting some kind of kick back

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