The president of Arawak Homes yesterday called the government’s real property tax assessment program unfair, after he claimed he knows firsthand about instances of property owners’ tax bills increasing one hundred percent overnight.
Franon Wilson said he has fielded concerns from frustrated property owners who have lamented that in some cases their real property tax bill is being more than doubled after reassessment by the Department of Inland Revenue.
“When anyone comes and says I’m going to more than double your bill, that’s going to be a problem. In my opinion I think the government, in terms of real property tax assessment, there should be a cap year on year. If you say look, your property is this now, we’re going to go up by x amount this year and it’s going to move in this direction every year after, even something like that can work,” he told Guardian Business in an interview.
“It’s hard when people see VAT has gone up, they’re charging you $0.25 for (plastic) bags, and then you see a bill doubling on you and the government is saying you owe us thousands and
thousands of dollars, all these things add up and it has an effect.”
The government engaged Tyler Technologies Inc. to carry out data collection services for the Department of Inland Revenue’s (DIR) Real Property Tax Valuation Unit as a part of its aggressive plan to recover what it estimates is more than $20 million in uncollected annual revenue.
Up to last November, the company has completed reassessing around 16,000 properties.
One of the loudest complaints from the general public is that the reassessed values submitted to the DIR do not match a real estate appraised market value of the properties.
Wilson, who is also a past president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), said the exercise is likely to have a negative impact on the sale of homes.
“It will definitely have a big impact, that’s for sure. But at the same time, the government is entitled to its taxes. I don’t think anyone is disputing that. The main thing is that people just want to know that it’s being done on a fair basis. And when it’s not being done fairly, or the government has in some instances gone up overnight on someone’s tax bill 100 percent, that is where a problem comes in,” he said.
“I don’t believe in doubling anyone’s bill. Even if you say we’re within our right, I do not think it’s fair to tell someone you will now have to go from paying x to x times two. I don’t agree with that at all. And I think that’s where a government ought to say, fine we need to increase this, but we can’t kill people this way. We need to increase this in stages or tell people to pay a percentage of this every year. But it can’t be where literally they just show up and congratulations your bill is doubled today. I don’t believe in that.”
Field visits for the reassessment program began last June.
Property owners are encouraged on the government’s website to object to their property’s determined value by visiting the DIR.
However, Wilson claimed he knows firsthand that the process to object is not seamless.
“I have not found the process to communicate to get an idea and speak to someone very clear. It may be the fact that they need more people in there. I know I have made trips down there myself and the person they keep telling me I need to speak to is always on the road. So literally it’s like you can’t find them,” he said.
“At the end of the day, matters drag and drag and can’t be resolved. So that may be an issue of staffing and personnel to ensure that if someone has a question, you want to resolve it because you ultimately want people to pay their taxes.”
Last year Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said real property taxes could bring in $131 million in revenue this fiscal year alone, representing six percent of total annual revenue.