Government readying for property tax – Imbert: 232,000 homes assessed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minsister Colm Imbert who piloted the Valuation of Land (Amendment) Bill, 2023 on Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert on Wednesday said 232,000 residential properties have been assessed for value to form part of the land valuation roll which will be the basis of the property tax.

He spoke in the House of Representatives where he piloted the Valuation of Land (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which disaggregates the country’s properties into four classes – residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.

He said there was nothing draconian about the registration process.

With property tax at three per cent of a property’s rental value, Imbert said to find the latter a valuer would examine factors such as the property market, individual aspects of a property such as its condition and location, and the topography of the land on which it was located.

He said a property could also be assessed on the basis of similar properties being rented plus national indicators. He said it would be “quite easy” to determine the rental value. He said very few areas have no rented houses, as he noted a high proportion of the population live in rented houses.

Imbert said the number of applications for public housing exceeded 100,000.

“It is also quite simple for the Valuation Division to do computer-assisted mass appraisal.”

This mass appraisal would be done for similar houses in the same areas, but he also added that it could be done for samples of thousands of homes.

Imbert said in the US, property tax paid was typically US$3,700 per year (equivalent to $25,000 per year), while in the UK it was equivalent to $20,000 per year.

He said in TT it would be $1,000-1,200 per year. “So our tax is not as draconian as some persons would like us to believe. We need to get on with this.”

Imbert accused some MPs of speaking out of both sides of their mouth, in lamenting shortfalls in funding for local government while also opposing the property tax.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar with members of her bench in the House on Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –

The number of properties identified in TT from all sources – including aerial photos, TTEC data, and old land records was 600,000, he said.

TTEC data said 400,000 of these were residential, according to the type of electricity meter serving the property.

Some 49,000 were commercial, 3,000 industrial and the rest were agricultural and other.

He said the Valuation Division had digitized data on 570,541 properties in TT.

Imbert said the division said some time ago the number of residential properties registered has exceeded the 50 per cent threshold required to enact property tax.

Some 232,000 residential properties have been valued and were ready for the roll, he said.

“I’m satisfied within the next month the Commissioner of Valuation will produce the valuation role.

‘KICKSING’ IN PARLIAMENT: Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, laughs with Finance Minister Colm Imbert, while at left, Energy Minister Stuart Young is in a jovial mood during the sitting of the Lower House on Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

The roll then goes to the board of revenue to apply three per cent of rental value, Imbert added. He estimated lower-end taxes to be $90 per month, but high-end property owners paying more, such as up to $4,600 per year for houses in areas like Valsayn. “That’s still one quarter of what it would be if you were living in England or the US, in a much smaller unit.” This type of tax was used in more than 150 countries in the world to provide an income stream for local government, he said.

“What we are doing is finally bringing TT into the modern era, finally creating a dedicated income stream for municipal corporations no matter which political party is in charge, and finally providing local government bodies with the funding they require.”