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Perspective: Property Tax Revisited

Audley Shaw discussing property tax

Responding to the out cry regarding the 2013 valuations just implimented by the Andrew Holness led JLP government hastily set up a committee.   This  committee was immediately convened to review the impact of the new property taxes and recommend less burdensome means of implementation.

Two Billion Jamaican Dollars

About two billion Jamaican dollars will be lost due to the review and lowering of the property rates as announced by Finance Minister Audley Shaw, April 11, 2017 in Parliament
The 272,000 who were projected to benefit from relief will now be over 400,000 instead.  The Holness government has acted swiftly and the people will therefore get more relief.  “We have listened to the cries of the people” declared Finance Minister Shaw, in a Statement to Parliament.  They are hoping that the usual 57 percent compliance rate will increase to at least 70 percent.  More money will be collected and the projected 2 billion shortfall will be realized by greater or improved collection.This would be a win win for all concerned.  This would avoid additional taxes to be imposed to fill the gap.

PNP Government Acted Illegally

“Mr Speaker, not only did the Government not have the courage to implement the new land valuations, but we recently discovered that they also Gazetted the new property Tax rates without securing Parliamentary approval of the new schedule. In essence, Mr. Speaker, the Government acted illegally in requesting  higher property taxes from the Jamaican people since 2013.”  This illegal act by the PNP had to be covered. The PNP Opposition supported this Indemnity Act only.

Two Bills were Implemented

1)  “Property Tax (Validation and Indemnity) Act 2017 to provide validation for the collections of property taxes 2013 and to indemnify the Government against liability arising from these collections: and
2) The Property Tax (Amendment) No. 2 Act to make retroactive to April 1, 2017, the changes to the proposed property tax rates that we have tabled today for debate.
This Administration  is trying to do the right thing … to turn back on years of politically motivated Government policies and to reset the economy in the direction of Prosperity.

New Tax Rate

“We have retained the flat J$1000 tax on all properties valued up to J$400,000. This will benefit 110,303 persons.  These are small plots of lands in the communities such as Crawle River, Kellitts, Mahoe Hill, Bullhead etc. It is the small farmers in rural Jamaica that are included here.
The new rate is now 0.5 to 0.9 percent.This is a big reduction from the tax rates announced at the start of the Budget debate. Some 448, 360 or 58 percent of the 776,487 properties will now see a reduction or no change in their property bills.”
In my perspective, this is a big break for tax payers of property tax and it is our hope that there will be improved compliance.

Opposition Responded

MP Peter Bunting responding on behalf of the Opposition … he wanted the Government to delay the implementation for one month … they did not support the changes, but the Government out voted them and will do as planned.  Were they (Opposition) bad minded or just stupid?
The Opposition’s job is to oppose but not to appear stupid.
Were the Opposition shell shocked by the speed and excellence of Shaw’s move?  In our further perspective, it was a clever move that based on responses by social and other groups is well appreciated.
This is our perspective, what is yours?  Let us hear from you soon.
We have extensively quoted from Shaw’s statement in Parliament, but will post the full statement soon.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is SIC for Vision Newspaper.

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