Government goes after property tax dodgers

The Ministry of Local Government has served notice that it will be introducing tough measures as it goes after individuals who have racked up billions of dollars in property tax arrears.

They include increased penalties for non-payment.      

This was revealed Sunday night by Noel Arscott, Minister of Local Government in an interview with RJR News.

Mr. Arscott said it was part of a strategy to improve property tax compliance.

Proposals for the increased penalties will be taken to Parliament.

“Well, we will be increasing our advertisements to get persons to comply. Equally we are going to develop a programme to increase the penalties. There are some penalties associated with delinquency, and we are going to increase those. We are coming to Parliament with a set of proposals which we hope will get compliance; but if not, then we are going to have the  second round and apply what the law says you have to do in terms of getting funds,” said Mr. Arscott.  

A Ministry Paper on the revenue measures announced last week by Dr. Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance, said a new compliance programme is to be implemented by the Ministry of Local Government and Tax Administration Jamaica in respect to property tax arrears.

Information released Sunday by the Ministry shows that property tax arrears have ballooned to J$6.4 billion.  

One third of the outstanding amount, or J$2.1 billion, is owed in Kingston and St. Andrew as well as Manchester.

St. Elizabeth is next on the list with J$730 million; St. James J$634 million; Clarendon J$632 million; St. Ann J$495 million and St. Catherine which had J$462 million dollars in property tax arrears.

St. Thomas had the lowest amount of J$97 million dollars.

The information comes on the heels of the reform of the property tax regime, given the increasing demand for solid waste collection and community infrastructure such as street lighting.

There will be a flat rate of J$1,000 on the first J$100,000 of unimproved land value.

Lands with values of J$100,000 to J$1 million will be taxed at a rate of 1.5 per cent per year and lands worth above J$1 million will be taxed at 2 per cent.      

The regime will be implemented on April 1 and should result in J$3.4 billion flowing into the government's coffers.   

In the meantime, the St. Elizabeth Parish Council is to launch a major initiative targetting landowners who are delinquent in paying property tax.

According to Mayor Everton Fisher, chairman of the Council, the number of persons in St. Elizabeth owing property tax is significant.  

Starting the end of February, the Parish Council will begin an aggressive collection drive in conjunction with the tax authorities.

While Mayor Fisher is appealing to property owners to come forward and clear their arrears, the Council is not ruling out court action.                                                                  

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