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Kamla: Forgive me for not axing the tax

Published: 
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar reads a document while addressing the property Tax Forum at her constituency office in Penal, on Wednesday, night

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has asked for forgiveness from citizens for not repealing the proposed Property Tax, which she has now dubbed ‘poverty tax’, during her tenure as prime minister. 

Admitting to flaws they would have made, Persad-Bissessar also said this is one of the reasons why they are in Opposition and not government.

Responding to a question from constituents Rampersad Seurage, as she presided over a Property Tax public consultation forum at her Siparia constituency office on Wednesday night, as to why she did not repeal it in the five years and three months she was in office or change some of the contentious clauses, Persad Bissessar said it was not a simple thing to do.

“I take the blame. Forgive me.”

“I don’t want to blame people today to say who did and didn’t do, or why and how and where,” she said, noting that she depended on a lot of people who disappointed her.

She said being in government for the first time she encountered a lot of bureaucracy as well as unfriendly people who did everything to put obstacles and stumbling blocks in their way.

Although her government did not repeal the Property Tax Act passed under the Patrick Manning administration, Persad-Bissessar said she ensured that no one paid a cent in property tax during her tenure.

“We brought two bills to Parliament during my time to repeal the Act. What we did do in 2015 we passed Act 11 of 2015 — which was to insert a new section 52 and 53 A into the Act. That was all we were able to do. To say that from 2010 to December 2015 a waiver of any of these taxes. That’s why for five years you didn’t pay”.

She told her audience that she would have gotten rid of the tax if her party had gotten another five year term.

Former Energy Minister Ramnarine said the implementation of the Property Tax is ill timed, is a disincentive to business and he is certain government is not ready to administrate the collection.

“This is not the correct time to introduce Property Tax for the simple reason that this country is buckling under a tremendous amount of pressure, government is out of touch with what is happening on the ground, fuel prices have risen three times while the Minister of Finance pokes fun that the country has not rioted as yet, the Green Fund levy has been tripled, the business levy fund has been tripled, affecting the top line  - revenue line -  of business throughout the country.”

He said the valuation division of the Finance Ministry is far from prepared to do the work as there are not evaluators and the Board of Inland Revenue is not resourced to administer this tax. 

Ramnarine said he foresees the Tax Appeal Board being overwhelmed by challenges to the formal process from individuals and companies and an unpreparedness of the District Revenue offices for the long lines that will snake outside the various offices. 

‘What will happen to people of TT, the sun is already hot, we have no water to drink, can you imagine lines snaking outside of District Revenue Offices,” Ramnarine asked. 

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