Property valuation exercise or property tax problem?

Letters to the Editor

Steve Alvarez –

THE EDITOR: A few years ago, I told the government that it is almost impossible, perhaps improbable, to collect property tax if it continues on its prescribed path.

I also suggested that if the goal was to raise money, then it would be much simpler to simply increase the amount of property tax already established by a percentage consistent with the increase in prices in the economy.

After years of continuing to exercise, the result is as I expected – not much progress.

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about the new initiative. The public notice sent under section 29 of the Land Assessment Act requiring all landowners to provide a declaration form with their property details by November 30 is causing a lot of confusion.

This, it has been argued, has nothing to do with property tax. Nevertheless, exercise seems to cause discomfort among owners.

If there is one area that shows the inefficiency, incompetence and lack of vision of past and present governments, it is land management.

After years of trying to manage on our own, we are now in a position where most of our farmland is abandoned, and squatters occupy almost every parcel of land in the state, from old railroads to land reserved for municipal use.

The new assessment initiative raises serious concerns. Among them are:

* The possibility of individuals giving false information.

* The possibility that the literate will claim lands which are not theirs while the illiterate owner remains vulnerable to manipulation by the greedy.

* The status of squatters in this exercise.

* Lack of proper documents lost by various means including theft, fire, misplacement and damage can cause many people to not register their property.

* The fear that by registering their property they will then be faced with an unbearable property tax.

* Assets passed down from generation to generation without proper documentation may remain unregistered.

The solution to our land issues is simple. The government should employ all possible land surveyors to map every parcel of land in the TT.

This exercise may take a few years, but at the end of the day each parcel should be classified as Rightful Title, Unconfirmed Title, Title Under Investigation, Crown Land, Squatter Ownership, and Abandoned Property.

This should be the starting point for land management. Using the power of the state to compel citizens to fill out assessment reports is an exercise that shows the lack of vision of a government that seems to grow every day in its inability to manage TT affairs effectively.


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