Faris-Al Rawi

Attorney General Faris-Al Rawi holds the view that citizens who fail to pay taxes or their “fair share” should be the last to complain about Government’s services in the country.

Al-Rawi was giving his views about Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s recent appeal to landlords to have a heart for tenants who are faced with financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pressed if Government can protect vulnerable tenants during this crisis, Al-Rawi said there was nothing they can do “legislatively in relation to that largely because it affects a property right.”

However, the AG said it was a matter they are looking closely at.

He said, “I am confident that this is an issue which is best addressed on a morale basis which is why the Prime Minister made the plea that way. It is far too complicated to think of every iteration of tenancy that could exist and then for a Government to be stepping in at that point.”

He said the Government was more focused on the country’s economic recovery to get us back on track.

In his San Fernando West constituency, Al-Rawi said they were looking at building homes for those in need of shelter.

The AG said many of his constituents pay exorbitant rents for accommodation that “quite frankly that is not deserving of the rental sum.

“As we roll out the property tax and we reduce property taxation because that is effectively what is going to happen. Tied into that is also the ability for the local government arrangement to monitor the state and condition of rental premises,” he said.

Al-Rawi said the Government will not enter into price control in a free market economy.

As they regulate the real estate agency, Housing Development Corporation and Land Settlement Agency arrangements, this would bring relief for citizens.

“This is a time for measure and management. It’s very dangerous to paint the picture that the landlord is an evil person who is out to do something.”

Al-Rawi said no one knows the circumstances of the landlord who may be in a precarious situation.

“There is a balance to be struck in the situation.”

He said the PM’s call was not only to landlord but to tenants to pay what you can.

While the Government has offered cash strapped or unemployed citizens assistance through the rental assistance grant, Al-Rawi noted that some landlords have been refusing to sign the forms for those in need.

“It says a lot to who was hiding in the system,” he said.

The AG questioned why a landlord would refrain from signing the form.

“Were you paying your fair share? Were you paying your taxes?”

He said T&T was missing the point, in that, “we can reduce the amount everyone pays in taxation, contribution to the state and property tax.”

“Right now it is really the working people of this country who are on the Pay As You Earn structure who never see that fictional part of their salary because it goes directly to taxation. They are minding this country,” he added.

This was the problem, Al-Rawi said.

“If everybody pays their fair share we can drop the taxation regime down to flatten the levels,” he said.

He said a lot of it was discovered in the demonitisation of the $100 bills last December.

Al-Rawi said a pastor who collects millions in tithes and fails to declare “as a charity and registering for that you are liable to the payment of taxation.”

He said likewise for a barber who earns $1 million “there is nothing wrong with that wonderful entrepreneurship but are you paying your fair share?”

He said these individuals should be different from the person who pays taxes to the State.

“The person who does not pay their fair share has no right to see Government relief in some senses and who also ought not to be the person complaining about a pothole in the road or the picking up of garbage or the cutting of lots. You not paying your fair share.”

Such person, he said was not contributing to society.

“Now we don’t want to frighten people. We want to urge them….we want to encourage them… we want to welcome them, that is why we have done the amnesties for taxation in the past and for company’s documents that is in existence right now.”