Colm Imbert

Colm Imbert

Property Tax is not open for debate, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said.

Responding to questions from the public during Monday’s Spotlight on Budget 2021 event, Imbert said he was aware of many discussions on the tax.

He said there was still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding the issue.

Two weeks ago, Imbert indicated that implementation of the tax was still on stream.

Some business groups have objected to the tax being implemented at this time, saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has crippled many businesses, which will make it hard for them to pay the tax.

They argued that the tax is necessary but should not come at this time.

However, on Monday, Imbert reiterated that property tax was not new.

“The Property Tax Act was passed in 2009/2010. And we have committed to it in all our manifestos ever since. It is taking a while because of the process. You have to develop what is called a valuation roll. You have to value properties before you collect. That’s how the law is structured,” he said.

Imbert said Government was working assiduously towards implementing the tax.

“We may make some adjustments to the legislation to make it easier to collect the tax, to accelerate the tax. But it is not an issue that is open for debate,” he said.

“I noticed a lot of discussions about businesses saying don’t collect property tax, but the first area where we are actually doing the valuations is residential properties. And we made it very clear that’s first, then commercial, then industrial, then agricultural,” he added.

He again stressed that Government had to find new revenue streams.

“I had an estimate made to me recently by a member of the public who made his own calculations...stating that if we collected $500 per year from persons whose properties were valued at $1 million or less and $1,000 for properties valued between $1 million and $3 million and so on, the amount of revenue that is available to us through property tax could be as much as $1 billion,” he said. “And when you look at it, paying $500 a year in property tax, which is $40 a month, that is not an insurmountable amount for a person.”

He noted that many people will fall outside the property tax net and will not have to pay the tax, such as those who rent from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

“So there is a lot of misinformation outside there and a lot of misunderstanding. And it is something we will spend a lot of time clarifying as we move towards accelerating the implementation of that ten-year-old tax,” he said.

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