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Squatters without Certificates of Comfort safe
The Valuation of Land exercise to be done prior to Property Tax collection will first deal with people who have deeds and squatters who hold Certificates of Comfort—but those squatters who lack such certificates won’t be dealt with immediately.
Probably not for the next few years, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has estimated.
Imbert confirmed the entire situation in the Senate last Friday where amendments to the Property Tax Act were in final stage discussions.
Collection of tax begins with 50 per cent of all properties are valued and on the valuation rolls.
Imbert explained the Commissioner of Valuations, who has the power to value land, will begin dealing with people who have deeds to properties, followed by squatters who have Certificates of Comfort.
But, he said, he didn’t think complex or convoluted ownership issues—such as squatters without Certificates of Comfort—would be dealt with immediately.
“It will be at some point, but I’m not sure it’ll be in the next ten years,” Imbert added.
He said he didn’t think Government would go after people with no documentation immediately. However, Imbert was quick to point out that the situation shouldn’t entrench squatting and people would hardly stop seeking Certificates of Comfort if they felt they could escape the property tax.
“You can’t get title to land without a Certificate of Comfort and what’s most important to squatters is title which you need to do bank transactions and other business,” Imbert noted.
Independent Senator Paul Richards expressed concerns that Government might be leaving the situation too “open” facilitating a land grabbing “spree” if squatters felt that by paying the tax, they could automatically be entitled to land.
Imbert stressed paying the tax didn’t entitle a squatter to land. Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West also said squatting is illegal and “What we have to do is action the power on that which we have.”
However, Imbert acknowledged that the issue of squatters paying the tax and right to property could eventually be tested in the courts.
He said Government didn’t want people to get the right to acquire property “just like that “(squatting) but, “The thing might go before the court, some persons would argue that they pay the tax and it doesn’t matter what the law says. You know how evolutionary our judicial system is, you never know.”
But, he said, squatters were being put into the property tax law since they had to pay for the services they receive from the State.
He said there were squatter communities in his constituency—Bagatelle, Blue Basin, Water Wheel, River Estate—where people had Certificates of Comfort and received a range of State services.
West is expected to speak more about the Property Tax at 10 am today in the Senate when she delivers the 2018 budget mid-year review.
Imbert delivered this in the Lower House last Thursday, stating the economy has turned around and that there will be no retroactive property tax.
He’d said the waiver on payment of the tax would be extended “at this time” to the end of December 2017, since it’s “our policy to collect the tax in the year that all of the required administrative work is completed, such as, for example, the valuation of 50 per cent of properties in T&T in various categories.”
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