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Business properties next
As soon as the current valuation form exercise is completed with residential owners, who’ve responded overwhelmingly, the next phase concerning industrial and commercial owners begins, Finance Minister Colm Imbert says.
At yesterday’s post-Cabinet news press conference, he said Valuation Division officials will start the outreach to industrial and commercial property owners today, beginning in Pt Lisas.
They will explain the procedure regarding valuation forms for business owners.
Imbert confirmed Cabinet yesterday approved extension of the deadline for submission of residential forms, from Monday to June 5, but he said the deadline would not extended beyond June 5.
He attributed the “rush” of people submitting forms to people “wanting” to pay the tax. He said the extension was to facilitate this.
“Contrary to the Opposition’s attempt to get people not to pay the tax, we’re seeing the reverse, people want to get involved in the process to pay it.”
Imbert said the “overwhelming response,” which Government had seen in newspapers and on TV, was unusual since Trinidadians do not like to pay tax. But Trinis were also famous for last-minute action.
He added, the number of people visiting Valuation offices exploded recently. In the last week 6,000 forms were submitted and this week, over 90,000. Between Monday to Wednesday about 20,000 to 30,000 forms were submitted daily.
“Due to this response, it’s obvious people want to pay the tax so we felt we’d give them an opportunity (by extending the deadline),” he added.
Government will expand the number of submission centres to include buildings in communities and extra staff is being added.
Imbert dismissed claims people were rushing since they feared losing their property. He said there was a five-year process before the state could claim property.
Nor does the extension have anything to do with the UNC’s pre-action protocol letters. He said that he’s replying to one letter by today’s deadline, but he declined further comment.
Once the process for residential form submission is completed, the exercise concerning industrial and commercial properties begins. “We won’t be stopping. We have hired staff for two years,” Imbert said.
He said Government started with residential owners since 250,000 of these are already on the valuation rolls. But many industrial and commercial properties,save those in Port-of-Spain, are not on the “books and field visits will be needed to deal with many of them.
“It’ll take longer to deal with assessment of Industrial/Commercial properties,” he added.
On projected revenue from industrial/commercial properties, Imbert said while the property tax rates for those two categories are higher than for residential, there are fewer industrial/commercial properties than residential. Clarifying issues, he said people overseas can appoint someone to handle the form for them.
If people didn’t own a property, but were occupying it, and the owner was not available, they could submit a form as “Occupier.”
Imbert assured forms were legal despite it not being the form Parliament approved. He said the Valuations Commissioner is empowered to request more information from owners.
Imbert said it would not be easy for people to devalue properties since T&TEC and WASA bills as well as aerial photographs are available. Valuation officials may only have to visit about 25 percent of residential properties, he noted.
Despite the June 5 extension, Imbert projected Government will be able to collect property tax income in the current 2017 fiscal year and the process should be completed by September.
POS OFFICES MORE EFFICIENT
Despite the June 5 deadline extension, some property owners still came out very early yesterday to submit forms at the Valuation Division’s POS office. However lines moved steadily despite the numbers and after lunch the lines had dispersed and submissions ended just after 2 pm.
Valuation supervisors said the system at that office was “more efficient” yesterday. Drop-off boxes were received on Wednesday, adding to efficiencies there. More staff is expected soon. Some owners dropping off forms said they had heard the deadline was being extended, but had come out early and lined up since they wanted to ensure their forms were in.
Several said they didn’t know about the extension. A couple said they’d planned to submit forms yesterday whether there was an extension or not.
A Maraval woman said despite the extension she still came out early as she had to go to work and “wanted to get this over with since it caused a lot of stress...”