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File image: A home owner photographs her house in San Fernando.

While two former Opposition politicians aren’t looking to pursue any further challenge to Government’s property tax, some business groups have suggested ways Government can make the tax work more equitably.

Former United National Congress Minister Devant Maharaj and former senator Gerald Ramdeen don’t plan to challenge the tax.

The Confederation of Regional Business Chamber, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association and the American Chamber of Commerce yesterday suggested different ways of presenting the tax.

The full update on the implementation of the property tax- long part of the Government’s plans- is expected to be part of the 2022 Budget being presented on October 4. It’s expected to be a mixed bag of revenue stream measures plus others aimed at propelling the economy out of the COVID-19 doldrum.

Last week the Valuation Division called for people in possession of land to fill out valuation return forms by November or risk a $5,000 fine.

Today the Senate debates proposed legislation for the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority. The TTRA is designed to replace the Board of Inland Revenue – the body involved in the collection of the tax. The TTRA bill requires simple majority votes for passage and doesn’t need Opposition support. The Opposition United National Congress has made it clear however, it will not be supporting it.

In 2016, Maharaj then with the UNC, had legally challenged Government’s call for valuation returns for properties by a certain date. He lost the court battle and has appealed. The appeal comes up in November. But Maharaj said, “I’ve advised my attorney not to pursue anything new on this tax.

”For the last six years, my litigation has been the only thing that prevented the State from its imposition. I wait for the UNC to stir from its perpetual slumber take steps to challenge it and not merely pay lip service.’’

Ramdeen who had commented on the calls for return form on the valuation of land told Guardian Media he too had no plan to challenge the tax.

“From all the action by Government – on the land return forms and Government’s statements on the TTRA – it’s a foregone conclusion Government firmly intends starting that tax in the coming fiscal year,’’ he said.

Confederation, TTMA, Amcham offer suggestions

San Juan Business association head Vivek Charran (Confederation of Regional Chambers president) said citizens’ financial plight from the pandemic should form part of the Government’s decision to launch the tax. He said the first targets should include entities that have easier access to foreign exchange and industrial classes.

The Confederation listed areas for Budget consideration.

On property tax, Charran said, “We’ve seen the economic toll COVID- 19 is taking on everyone. This could affect the ability to pay the tax. Commercial tenants are in arrears or closed their shops. That will affect property owners’ ability to pay since they aren’t earning full capacity.

“The tax would cause more inflationary pressure as businesses already are suffering from increased shipping duties forecast to last another six months. There should be a phased start of the tax focusing on those better able to bear it such as entities with easy access to forex sources locally and internationally .’’

He said efforts should be made to ensure large industrial customers – which aren’t listed on the recent call for valuation of land returns – be part of this.

TTMA president Tricia Coosal said via a statement, “The TTMA’s hopeful the relevant authority would consider the valuation of the property to exclude the housing for plant and machinery in its calculation for property tax in order to maintain the competitiveness of our manufacturers by minimising cost incurred in production.”

On tax in general: “TTMA is of the opinion that no additional burden should be placed on the compliant with regard to payment of tax, rather resources and energies should be concentrated in plugging the loopholes in the system that robs the government of significant amount of revenues on a yearly basis.”

The TTMA hopes the Budget also includes support to the business community regarding cash flow injections, specifically for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “Companies would welcome monies owed to them via VAT refund. Such injections will assist companies to manage their cash flows during these challenging times.’’

Meanwhile, Amcham yesterday called for a fair assessment of the plant and machinery in property tax processes.