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Senator Proposes Property Tax Amnesty

Senator Proposes Property Tax Amnesty
Senator Don Wehby.

KINGSTON (JIS) -- Government Senator, Don Wehby, is proposing an amnesty for the collection of property tax arrears in order to allow time for persons to get regularised. “The Minister of Finance and Public Service has stated that the Government has no intention of taking away anyone’s property because they are facing financial or other hardships. I support this position and believe that an amnesty for the collection of tax arrears, similar to the one done for outstanding traffic tickets, should be pursued to get persons to regularise their status,” he said. Senator Wehby was making his contribution to the debate on the Property Tax (Amendment) No. 2 Act 2017 and the Property Tax (Validation and Indemnification) Act 2017 in the Senate on Friday (April 21). He further proposed measures to increase property tax collection.

These include regular performance monitoring, conditioning property tax payments with other services such as vehicle registration, and providing incentives for staff to meet collection and enforcement targets.

Senator Wheby noted that there are a number of relief mechanisms in place for persons having difficulties in fulfilling their tax obligations and urged them to make use of these facilities.

He further encouraged persons, who feel that their property was not assessed for a fair value, to lodge an objection to the Commissioner of Land Valuations to have their concerns addressed.

Senator Wheby urged local authorities to improve transparency by producing annual reports and being more open with residents about how their property tax is spent.

This, he argued, will promote trust and influence persons to pay their taxes on time and in full.

He said that once property tax compliance is at a substantial level the Government can look at reducing the rates.

“Greater compliance also means that budgetary support from central government to local authorities can be eliminated so that more funds will be available for spending on education, health care and crime prevention,” he pointed out.

Leader of Government Business, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, appealed for Jamaicans to pay their property taxes.

“If we own land, we should be responsible and pay,” she said, noting that the Government will redouble its efforts to collect property tax.

She also encouraged property tax owners to avail themselves of the payment options that are in place.

The Property Tax (Amendment) No 2 Act 2017 makes retroactive to April 1, 2017, the changes to the proposed property tax rates.

The Property Tax (Validation and Indemnity) Act 2017, validates property taxes collected from April 1, 2013 to present, and indemnifies the state from any liability arising from these collections.

Other Senators, who have so far contributed to the debate include Pearnel Charles Jr., Mark Golding, Sophia Fraser Binns and Angela Brown Burke.

Property tax payments provide for the collection of garbage, public sanitary conveniences, running water, road improvement works, street lighting, poor relief and community beautification.