Friday 30 October, 2020

Curbside valuations? Hosein questions property tax measures

San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein has raised questions regarding valuation measures which he said he received information on, including the use of stamp duty and curbside assessments to form valuations.

Speaking in Parliament today discussing the 2021 Budget, Hosein said he received information on a Memorandum which referred to curbside evaluations for property tax, where valuators would not have to enter the property.

‘I am further informed that valuators are conducting curbside valuations. There’s a document titled ‘Process for Use of Data by the District Revenue Office’ by the Valuation Division, to facilitate the development of the valuation role. This document was also signed off by the acting Commissioner of Valuations, dated August 11, 2020 where they are talking about curbside/roadside valuations for property and there’s a list of items that they are asking people to do…’

‘…to take photos, to take GPS coordinates, to look to see how much toilets somebody have, I don’t know how they would do that from looking outside of the building. They want to find out how much carports, pools, storage sheds if you have. They want to find out about the construction details, foundation, beams, columns, A/C.’

‘So they’re standing up by the road and taking pictures of your house to see how much air condition you have and how much bathrooms you have, and how much pool you have.’

‘This is a completely shortcut and illegal method. They have to perform the proper valuations for persons in order to get what they require in order to pay property tax.’

He said he has also received information that stamp duty calculations are being used to create valuations for property tax:

‘It has been brought to my attention that the Valuation Division is working feverishly to populate the valuation role so that the property tax can be calculated and collected.

‘Government wants to ensure that it can collect property taxes in these harsh economic times. I have a Memorandum dated September 1, 2020 [from] the Acting Commissioner of Valuations.

‘In this Memorandum, a directive has been given that they must now ramp up the valuation exercise to populate the valuation role. I am informed of the practice that is taking place at that Division right now, is that if a person submitted a deed for the purposes of stamp duty for purchasing a property or by way of deed or gift, and a value is given to determine what the stamp duty will be, the Valuation Division is now using that value placed on the stamp duty to assess your property.’

‘That is an illegal exercise that is taking place. You cannot use the value used to assess stamp duty to assess property tax. It is two different bases. One is that of market value, the other is determined on th e annual rental value. They are placing a value on your property without you completing a valuation return form, which is a requirement under the law.’

‘The purpose for which you were submitting your information was for stamp duty and not for property tax. They are using your information for another purpose. This practice must stop as it is illegal, it is a shortcut method.’

Hosein also asked how would government confirm that 50 per cent of all properties were in fact valued in order to go ahead with the process:

‘The [Finance] Minister announced that property tax is coming. According to the law, government can only collect property tax when 50 percent of the properties in Trinidad and Tobago are valued. I would like the Minister of Finance to show us the area on the maps which have been valued. Is it the 19 constituencies on this side of the House?’

‘What is the total number of properties in Trinidad and Tobago to determine 50 per cent?

During his 2021 budget presentation on October 5, Imbert said government aims to begin the collection of property tax in fiscal 2021.

He said the Commissioner of Valuations will be making mandatory requests for information from property owners in the near future. 

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