Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivers the 2020/2021 Budget at the Red House on Monday.

Property tax snag?

The Finance Ministry plans outsourcing valuation of properties – and contracting certified chartered valuators – for its property tax thrust since it’s “having trouble” attracting qualified valuators.

“That’s one of the areas we’re having a little trouble with,” Finance Minister Colm Imbert said while speaking on the issue. This was during yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee examination of the Finance Ministry’s 2021 allocation of $6b.

Replying to Opposition queries, Imbert said the ministry has about 333 field officers doing field assessment of properties. This is to populate property records (rolls) required for collection of the tax . Officers are looking at about one million properties, he added.

Imbert said if more field officers are needed, the Ministry will seek Cabinet approval.

The assessment is in two stages: first examining a property to determine its nature and physical dimensions such as how many rooms, storeys and other aspects.

Secondly, the information will be collated and the property’s capital value and annual rateable value is determined.

Imbert said field officers have been trained by UWI’s Surveying Department.

UNC’s Saddam Hosein asked how many officers are certified by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) .

Imbert said field officers are contracted and the public servants who have established positions would have to be engaged by the service commission as valuators.

Imbert then added, “That’s one of the areas we’re having a little trouble with because of the paucity, of lack of availability of people with those skills (valuators).”

“You’ll find a lot of these people prefer to work in the private sector.. it’s much more lucrative for valuators to work in the private sector. They get paid for everything that they value.” he also said.

Imbert added, “So it’s an area where we’re having some trouble attracting qualified staff .”

Hosein noted that if a value has to be set on a property it has to be by someone who is certified by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Imbert responded, “ I wouldn’t want to give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on that. But I do know the Valuation Division has to value the property and there is a legal framework for that. But I would not to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on this.”

“The valuations are usually done by people who are permanent public servants rather than contracted valuators,”

Imbert continued, “In fact it’s something we’re looking at…. to see if we can outsource and bring in private valuators to do it on a job basis. This is a technique used in auditing of financials of state enterprises.”

He said if the Auditor General’s Division has limited capacity, quite often State enterprises are audited by private auditing firms and the Auditor General reviews and signs off.

“We may have to use a similar approach to valuation of properties: to get qualified chartered valuators to come in , do the valuations for us, then the Commissioner of Valuations will review and sign off,” he noted.

“It’s a little complicated but I’ll give you the information,” he told Hosein.

UNC MP Dave Tancoo noted projected 2021 funding in the valuations area included $8 million.

Imbert said this was for the projected hiring of valuators:

He said, “You don’t need these very senior people to come on for longer than 3 months but we’ll need a very significant amount of them . So (this funding) is for bringing on board chartered valuators who might work for the ministry for a three month period or something like that.”

Imbert said he didn’t want to “talk out of turn” and say how many properties or the percentage of them which have been assessed so far.

Imbert also said the ministry has been sued 12 times. “It’s quite unusual, we get sued for imposing taxes – we won all the cases.”

He also also revealed the ministry intends embarking on collection drive for outstanding taxes,”We’ll be aggressive in legitimate tax collection.