Senators against retroactive Property Tax

Ridiculous to have retroactive Property Tax!

That’s the view of Opposition Senator Taharqa Obika who, along with Independent Senator Stephen Creese, yesterday expressed concerns about retroactive property tax . That is, if the moratorium on the tax ends in September 2016 .

Concerns were expressed in the Senate as debate continued concerning amendments to the Property Tax Act.

A clause in the bill on the Property Tax, which went to the House of Representatives previously, had stated the extended moratorium on the tax would have ended in September 2018. It was reportedly amended in final (committee) stage of House discussions to read “September 2016.” That was passed.

The amended version of the bill, now being debated by the Senate, proposes the extended moratorium end in September 2016 .

If the bill is passed with that clause, concerns have arisen that the tax might begin applying from 2016 with possibly almost two years of retroactivity depending on when it actually starts.

Piloting the bill in the Senate recently, Minister in Finance Allyson West—when asked by other Senators if Government might extend the moratorium beyond 2016— had said Government would have to examine the situation.

Yesterday, in Senate, Opposition Senator Obika said proposed retroactivity of the tax was “ridiculous”

“There’s no reason for this, there are already so many taxes,” Obika added.

Independent Senator Stephen Creese also said any degree of retroactivity is always fraught with difficulty.

Creese questioned what would apply with people who have signed lease or purchase agreements for property in the period when the bill was under debate and how they would deal with normal transactional queries on whether the property had any encumbrances - like taxes.

“Who’d be liable?” Creese asked, wondering if it would be the outgoing or incoming owner.

Obika also championed the cause of T&T’s 300,000 squatters— including 50,000 families— on whom he said imposition of property tax would be immoral and unethical. (See Page A8)

“Any person of conscience will never support the proposal (for squatters to pay property tax.)” Obika added.

“When a parent doesn’t have $20 to send their child on a school excursion- and I’ve seen this - you think they would have money to pay property tax?!”

“If people are forced to squat, you believe they could afford taxes? Government is making poverty a crime!”

Obika said the Poperty Tax would dissaude people from developing properties for fear of larger taxes and this in turn will stymie businesses, including insurance since people may be unable to pay premiums. He said the former Land and Building Tax was a more feasible plan.

Opposition Senator Wade Mark last night signalled the Opposition has amendments to the bill including to delete the clause calling for the moratorium to end in “September 2016”and to return it to “September 2018” to avoid retroactivity.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Gail Alexander)

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