Tina’s new maths

She adds the somewhat puzzling statement that it was “being done in the interest of the regular man in the street,” whatever this means, “so that he could have a little more money in his pocket.”

What was inferred in Senator Gronlund-Nunez’ advice was that homeowners would be paying less, when the Property Tax is introduced in 2010 and, specifically, that the three percent tax level which had been set would represent a reduction in their Lands and Building Tax liabilities.

What the Junior Minister failed to tell them, however, was that the seven and ten percent Land and Building taxes were based on much lower rentable value of properties, while the proposed three percent was being based on clearly immensely higher rentable values. They will have a chance to find this out for themselves, when they are called upon to pay Lands and Buildings taxes for the rest of December and compare them next year with the new rates.

The new homeowners, who were a captive audience on Saturday, may have been regarded by the Minister of State as persons who should have been willing to accept her new maths, that three percent of a higher sum should be considered less than seven or ten percent of “negligible” Annual Rateable Values (ARVs) set, in many cases, several decades ago.

Recently, the Ministry had issued mini-brochures and held meetings ostensibly to explain to the general householder public what the planned Property Tax entailed. The lowest theoretical rent offered, and we emphasise theoretical, was $3,000 a month. This may have been regarded by the Ministry, though, as an average lower level rent today. Nevertheless, was Minister Gronlund-Nunez implying that the proposed tax on such housing units would be lower than that imposed on an average apartment or house constructed before, say, the start of the 1973 oil boom?

The Junior Minister may have stepped, somewhat incautiously, out of her crease when she suggested that those who were objecting to the proposed new Property Tax had been cheating the system.

Later, she appeared to have, unwittingly, contradicted herself on the issue of the planned three percent of rentable value being much lower than the normal percentage level of between seven and ten for private homeowners. “You should leave the protesting for those who have something to worry about,” she stated, adding “But soon, every property owner would be evaluated to show their true value.”

What is instructive is that no private householder in Trinidad and Tobago is, officially, aware of what the amount per unit with respect to the proposed Property Tax will be for him/her. While the Junior Minister’s statement may appear to imply that she is privy to the assessing of property values for tax purposes, only a relative few are in this position.

In the meantime, she has implied, in essence, that the recipients of new Housing Development Corporation homes should not march. “We are here today not by any means encouraging you to go marching anywhere. You have been given the opportunity of owning your own homes and we are asking you to ensure that you pay your installments on time, to pay your property tax bills on time and to pay your light bills on time, because we are sure you would pay your cellphone bills on time.”

While the new owners of HDC constructed units are entitled to feel themselves grateful to the Housing Development Corporation and, by extension, the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago, generally, for the homes they have acquired, should they in March of next year discover that their Property Tax is somewhat higher than what is anticipated, would it not be their constitutional right to express their being upset at the level of tax demanded?


"Tina’s new maths"

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