Categorized | National News

Tax Amnesty Bonanza- 2,000 Property Owners Took Advantage Of Amnesty

The government collected over $21 million in revenue as a result of its real property tax amnesty programme.

According to State Minister for Finance, Michael Halkitis, of the 2,000 property owners who took advantage of the amnesty period, more than 1,000 were not previously in the system.”

“The good thing about that is now we don’t have to expend those resources to go out on the road and look for those people. They have come forward. So going forward voluntarily they will now receive bills. So we are making steps in completing the tax role. Going forward, we will compile a report, which we will publish. We are also making changes to the department to modernise it,” Mr. Halkitis said in an interview with the Bahama Journal.

In that vein, the government is hoping to acquire a new IT system that will track property taxes.

“We intend going forward – so we don’t get back where there are such large arrears – to have a unit that will be responsible for following up, so instead of just sending out a bill and waiting for people to come in, we will be more proactive in following up and doing things like arranging plans and engaging the private sector in assisting us in going out and making sure that everyone who should be registered is registered, which is one of the main problems,” he said.

“Our information is that up to a third of individuals who should be in the system are not.”

The real property tax amnesty period expired on Monday, August 5.

The government was requesting 50 per cent payment for taxes owed for the last three years and for self-registration of unregistered property.

The goal was to allow property owners the opportunity to have unregistered properties assessed without penalties and to provide concessions on payments of existing tax arrears.

Incentives were also provided for property owners whose accounts are current.

Now that the amnesty period has expired, those who come in are now liable for payment.

But Minister Halkitis said it is still a good idea to pay.

“If you come forward now, you will be liable for your payment. Any individual can apply and have an arrangement made. They can pay in instalments. That’s up to the department to decide whether they will extend that,” he said.

“There are provisions in the law for people who have experienced hardships to apply for relief. We are talking about widows, etc. So, we still want people to come forward and regularise themselves. Last year, we established the Real Property Tax Appeals Tribunal, a body independent of the Real Property Tax Department. So, for individuals who have a complaint, have an objection in the property tax department and who don’t feel they got satisfaction, they can appeal to the tribunal, which would then review their matters and make recommendations.”

The government was reportedly owed up to $100 million in arrears on property taxes.

While he could not confirm this, Minister Halkitis said officials are looking to ensure these types of errors do not happen again.

“We might be coming with some new legislation to modernise the system. We will be looking to position ourselves to be more responsive to citizens to accurately reflect what’s outstanding and do a better job of collecting it,” he said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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