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Gov’t Offers Real Property Tax Amnesty To Delinquent Landowners

Effective immediately the Real Property Tax amnesty programme could save taxpaying home owners up to 50 per cent of what they owe the government if they act fast and make arrangements with the assessment team at the Charlotte Street offices. Roger Forbes, the Chief Evaluation Officer and Controller of Inland Revenue at the Ministry of Finance explained the three options of financial benefits for taxpayers that want to meet the June 30, 2013 deadline. He said taxpayers would then have up to December 2013 to finalise a zero balance on their property tax accounts. “The government has instituted an Amnesty programme under the Real Property Tax Act and it allows persons to benefit tremendously from several options under this programme,” said Mr. Forbes. He said persons who have properties that are assessed with arrears of not more than three years, are able to get relief on the assessed amount, plus the surcharge interest of 50 per cent. That’s 50 per cent of the tax amount and 50 per cent of the surcharge. That’s a tremendous relief. That’s for arrears of not more than three years, and of course, those taxes must be paid in full by the 30th of June, 2013,” said Mr. Forbes. “The second option is for properties that are on the assessed list and with arrears going back for more than three years. These persons are entitled to a waiver of 100 per cent of the total surcharge,” said the the Chief Evaluation Officer. He said to benefit, however, the payment must be made in full by December 31, 2013. Then there is a third option where persons with properties that are not on the assessment list, are encouraged to get their property on the list. “The government will waiver the taxes for the prior years, providing again that the property is on the register with our department, that is the Evaluation Department, on or before the 30th of June, 2013.” Mr Forbes said he believes there is about 20 percent outstanding properties that remain to be put on the list. He spoke about the other option the government is talking about in terms of the amnesty, which is the rebate of five percent or five percent waiver for those who are up to date.

He said if they remain current for the next three years, those tax payers can benefit from the programme. “Now, in addition to that, the government has undertaken that it would be prepared to look at those accounts that may have large variations in the amount assessed on the tax, in recent times, to give those careful consideration,” said Mr. Forbes. Mr. Forbes explained that the property value is based on market value, but there are some properties that are not currently at market value. He said it would be useful if an appraisal is done to ensure the correct market value. Mr Forbes said vacant ;opts constitute two categories of properties. Bahamians do not pay tax on vacant properties, however, vacant property for non-Bahamians are taxed and there is a rate for foreign owned undeveloped property, where the first $7,000, in dollar value, pays a tax of $100, and over $7,000, there is a rate of one and a half per cent. “Now for commercial property, Bahamians, as well as non-Bahamians, are required to pay taxes. And that is one percent on the first half a million dollars ($500,000). Over half a million dollars, the rate goes up to two percent,” said Mr. Forbes. “Now you talk about the structure, whether if a Bahamian has a property and that property has some form of improvement or development, the first for owner occupied property, that is the person owns the property and is occupying the property, whether its Bahamian or foreigners, the first $250,000 is exempted. This is residential property. Now over $250,000 but it does not exceed $500,000 there is a rate of three-quarters of one percent. That’s the tax rate. If the property is valued over $500,000.00 then the rate that is applied to such property is one percent and that is applied up to a maximum of $50,000.” Mr. Forbes said Bahamians would know how much they are required to pay when they receive their tax bill which, if they are exempt, will not show a taxable amount.
He said if anyone is in doubt, they are free to call the office and visit to validate the balances. “We recommend that all properties are registered because you may be exempt today but with improvements done to the property, it may fall within another category tomorrow,” said Mr. Forbes. Mr. Forbes also stressed the importance of business licenses and keeping real property tax up to date. He said there are provisions in the law for persons, when renewing their business licenses, should ensure their real property tax is up to date. He said the renewal of their business licenses under law depends upon their real property tax being current. “We need the public to be aware of this because some persons are not aware that this section of the law exists. And so this is very important for them to, while they are renewing their business licenses, to make sure that they also bring their tax account up to date,” said Mr. Forbes.
“And then another area that should be underscored and that is the Government of The Bahamas has first charge on all property. So if persons have their property and they do not pay their taxes, even if they have mortgage on that property, the government has first charge to collect its money. So it’s very important for persons to remain current because, if they don’t remain current, the time will come when they may wish to sell the property and before they could sell the property, the government must get its share.” Mr. Forbes said the challenges taxpayers may face is that the longer they delay the process, a five per cent surcharge is being added on their account every year. He said that if they don’t come in and pay it now, then it means that they may pay it later with accrued interest. “It’s to their advantage to come now, pay the account and keep it current moving forward. They don’t have to deal with the interest,” said Mr. Forbes. “If a person dies the property remains and the tax on that property remains. So those who may inherit that estate, they will also inherit the tax bill. So it is important, as I indicated earlier, to keep the tax account current for the benefit of the persons who are alive now and their successors upon their death, because, bear in mind, the tax will not go away, unless the government is giving some relief. Mr. Forbes warned people not to sit back and procrastinate because there is no guarantee of any future amnesty.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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