MSJ leader David Abdulah speaks during the party’s press conference.

While the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) supports the collection of property tax, it says Government should first target commercial enterprises before homeowners.

During the MSJ’s weekly virtual media conference, political leader David Abdulah said reports showed that regular homeowners are first in line to pay the tax.

However, he said it would be easier for revenue-generating industrial and commercial entities to begin forking out extra dollars.

Industrial companies would include those plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate that generate United States dollars. He added that ammonia prices are soaring currently, with several plants on the estate producing the lucrative product.

“They ought to be paying property tax before a person who has not had a salary increase for five, six, 10 years and are having to face high food prices and other prices and are now called upon to pay property tax,” Abdulah said.

Following this, the wealthier citizens with high-value properties should start paying before the poor, he said.

The MSJ is also supporting the calls by businesses and some citizens to postpone the November 30 deadline to submit Valuation Return Forms to the end of February.

Abdulah said the forms were onerous for many homeowners who may find it hard to get the required information in time.

He said Government should consider this because of the heavy fines it imposes on homeowners who cannot submit the forms before the deadline.

As Government moves forwards with its plan to form the Revenue Authority to replace the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR)and Customs and Excise Division, merging the two functions, the MSJ finds this unnecessary.

Abdulah said there are ways to increase tax compliance under the current structures of the BIR.

He said there must be a way for the Public Service Commission to fill the existing vacancies with qualified professionals and make training available to meet the demands of the current tax system.

Several tax experts disagree with the creation of the Authority and the MSJ’s concern is the Minister of Finance’s power to appoint the Board of Directors.

Abdulah said that regardless of which political party or Minister is in charge, there could be real or perceived inference in its operation. He said Trinidad and Tobago already has a history of poor governance of State boards.

However, the MSJ agrees that there is a need for better tax collection.

“We do agree that we are losing between $8billion to $15 billion a year in tax revenue, which we believe will solve a major problem that both the IMF and Moody’s have spoken about. It is our government debt, which is the gap between government revenue and government expenditure. That gap between revenue and expenditure can be closed if everyone who is supposed to pay taxes pays and in the right amount.”

Abdulah said a more efficient tax collection system should target multinational gas companies first. He said these companies deprive citizens of the total tax benefits of natural gas production. He said the Authority could not deal with this issue as it is a matter of legislation.