s Property Tax looming for properties used for religious, educational and charitable purposes?
The areas—so far exempt from the tax—are spotlighted in new proposed Property Tax legislation laid last Friday.
New Property Tax proposals, plus new proposals concerning the Valuation of Land (VOL) act, were part of a supplemental package laid in Parliament.
The proposals concerning the VOL involve a revamped Valuation Return form, seeking expanded details about properties.
As Government sought to implement the Property Tax last year, media reports had noted the Property Tax Act exempted properties such as churches/places of worship, school compounds/playgrounds, property used for charitable/philanthropic work, land occupied by state enterprises, public hospital facilities and university/tertiary education facilities.
In May 2017, Finance Minister Colm Imbert was quoted as saying churches and schools were exempted from the tax, but Government had no plans to tinker with the law to include “wealthy churches,” since it simply wanted to implement the law then.
New Property Tax proposals circulated in Parliament last week, however, stated, “Clause 6 seeks to amend section 16 of the Property Tax Act, to remove from the list of places exempt from taxes a repletion that occurs in paragraph (c) which already appears in paragraphs (a) and (b) ‘lands attached to, or otherwise actually used in connection with and for the purposes of a place of learning maintained for educational, philanthropic or religious purposes, the whole profits from which are devoted or applied to such purposes’.”
Imbert and Minister in the Finance Ministry Allyson West didn’t respond to emails seeking clarification on Clause 6 and the prospects for property used by churches, schools and charitable work from the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Under other new Property Tax proposals, reference to “an incorporated charitable institution” will be deleted and replaced with “a charity exempted from Corporation Tax under the Corporation Tax Act.” Properties being exempted from the tax include lands belonging to/in occupation of a Statutory Authority or state enterprise.
The proposals list approximately 80 state entities—from Wasa and TTEC to municipal corporations—to be exempted from property tax.
Under proposals, objection to an assessment of the tax must be filed within 21 days after receipt of the notice of assessment, rather than after the tax becomes due and payable. Someone who has objected to their assessment and is dissatisfied with the decision is entitled to appeal to the Tax Appeal Board.
Proposals specify how valuation assessments will be done for town houses, condominiums and multi-owner commercial accommodations. Proposals regarding the Valuation of Lands (VOL) Act include a new Valuation Return form.
Last year, Government issued a form for property owners to submit. The Opposition challenged the format and the courts ruled it could be submitted voluntarily but wasn’t mandatory.
The proposed new form appears more structured than the last form.
Details being sought include which municipal corporation area a property is located in, whether it was bought in the last 24 months, the purchase price, whether any tenants’ rent include water/TTEC rates, cable/Internet, security/service charges. The proposed form also seeks details on commercial/industrial building rentals.
The VOL proposals also seek to increase the penalty for failure to file return forms from $500 to $5,000.
Another section involves how valuation would be conducted for town houses, condominiums and multiple-owner commercial units.
The proposals are expected to require a simple majority—Government—votes for passage rather than Opposition support. Debate is expected between this month and next month.
The proposed Valuation of Land bill allows the Commissioner of Lands to notify the Finance Minister once the Commissioner is of the view that more than 50 per cent of all lands in Trinidad and Tobago have been valued and the Minister would then declare that the valuations are in effect.
The Commissioner will also be able to revalue land where he believes it is overvalued or under-valued.
Other aspects concern appeals, speedy attention to this plus establishment of a Valuation Tribunal to hear objection and how this functions.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Gail Alexander)