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$50,000 fine for leaking Property Tax info
A $50,000 fine will be slapped on anyone within the Finance Ministry’s Valuation Division system who “leaks” or shares any information received from valuation exercises and fails to keep it confidential.
This amendment was added to the Valuation of Land (amendment) bill (VOL) in Parliament yesterday. Amendments to this bill and the Property Tax bill were approved in the Lower House after clauses were passed in the Upper House recently.
Under a new clause the Commissioner of Valuations/or any person duly authorised by him to receive information under the VOL Act must keep the information confidential and shall not share it unless authorised by law. Those contravening this will suffer a $50,000 fine.
Concerns have been rising among homeowners after Valuation Division assessors recently began field work in some North and South areas. The Finance Ministry, last Sunday, in a brief statement, confirmed the ministry was “preparing to populate the valuation rolls.”
In Parliament yesterday, Imbert slammed a weekend report on the matter as “completely inaccurate and wrong!”
Explaining the confidentiality clause, he said, “There was an article in the newspaper over the weekend, it’s a little unprofessional. It was based on posting by social media and Facebook by anonymous posters and (the article) took these postings as fact and found its way into news. Which apparently is the trend nowadays—that positions on social media are then represented in the mainstream media as fact.”
“It’s an unfortunate development with social media. People will just go on social media with some anonymous profile. The things in the (article) was about people trying to access personal information from property owners and this amendment deals with breach of confidentiality.”
“So if someone in the valuation system discloses personal information, we’re now creating an offence regarding disclosure of personal information. This story in the papers about people calling up people in their homes, wanting to inspect their property and get personal information...it was very disappointing that the story was based on Facebook postings from some anonymous poster, a fake profile,” Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar asked how, since amendments to the VOL and Property Tax Bills were not yet in force, there had been the ministry’s notice about starting the valuation exercise. She asked if the Government was using the previous law.
Imbert said the Government was using the existing law regarding which a court decision allowed certain action. Once amendments were approved, he added, the Government would be “able to do more.”
Another amendment to the VOL Bill allows the Valuation Tribunal—which will hear complaints— to extend the time prescribed to give notice of appeal. The initial period was 30 days. Imbert said it allows aggrieved people longer time for appeals.
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