Wednesday 21 November, 2018

Legal challenges for Property Tax

Government’s intention to proceed with the re-implementation of the Property Tax is facing legal challenges.

On Friday, lawyers representing aggrieved citizens filed pre-action protocol letters challenging the Property Tax.

In the first challenge, former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, representing UNC activist Ravi Maharaj and former People’s Partnership Minister Devant Maharaj, filed for judicial review arguing that his clients are under no obligation to submit the Valuation Return Form (VRF) or any listing.

He is also seeking a declaration that the state cannot prosecute anyone for failing or refusing to file the VRF and a declaration that neither the Commissioner of Valuations nor the Minister of Finance has the legal authority to submit a VRF on or before May 22.

Ramlogan issued a pre-action protocol letter to the Commissioner of Valuations on Friday.

He cited Section 6 of the Valuation of Land Act 2009, which makes provision for every owner of land in the country to file a return on their land on the prescribed form by April 1, 2010. Under the law, persons who wilfully fails to make a return, or who makes a defective or incomplete return, or which contains false information, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $500.

Ramlogan is arguing that because the Summary Offences Act establishes a limitation period of six months from the time the complaint was made, it is not now possible to prosecute anyone who fails to make a return by May 22.

He said with April 1, 2010, having come and gone, the only power the commissioner has is under Section 6(2) is to call upon the owner to file a return, failing which they may be liable to conviction under this section.

“The Minister cannot simply bypass parliament and impose a new deadline without amending Section 6.”

He said this is a most serious violation of the most basic principles of constitutional law and has left his client with the indelible impression of arrogant dictatorship.

In a constitutional claim, which will be argued by a team of attorneys led by Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan, Chaguanas resident Lutchmidat Ramcallie, has argued that it appeared that the Government was simply motivated to collect as much money as it could by collecting property taxes as opposed to collecting the taxes according to law. 

Sinanan and his team have asked the Government to reconsider the manner in which it is seeking to implement property taxes and repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the Property Tax Act.

The Government has seven days to respond.