Nov 23, 2009 News
– but raises concerns about discriminatory treatment
An investigation to determine if any discriminatory treatment is being meted out to the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) as it relates to the taxing of its properties in the city has commenced.
Party Leader Robert Corbin made this disclosure recently, even as he admitted to a gathering of media operatives “we owe taxes for all properties (owned by PNCR) that are in the confines of the city.”
Although the PNCR’s Congress Place is situated in Sophia, a section of Georgetown which is not regularised, Corbin related that the building is taxed. In fact, he divulged that his party is keen on finding out if other entities nearby are being subjected to the same treatment.
And according to him, the PNCR is ready and willing to pay the 100 odd million dollars it owes in taxes. He attributed the delay in payment to the uncertainty of the actual amount owed to the City Council.
“It is because we are seeking to reconcile the amounts owed and the interests charged thereon which resulted in the delay and reconciliation that is taking place.”
“We do have an amount owed for several properties but I couldn’t give all the details. I do know that our Finance Department has been in touch with the City Council and there was a question of where one of the properties was being rated for a number of years as a commercial property. It was not involved in any commercial activities at all and those are the things we are seeking to clarify.”
Another case that needed to be clarified, according to Corbin, saw the involvement of the Chief Valuation Officer of the government who was tasked with determining the actual rating for one of it’s properties. As such, he emphasised the fact that there was no secrecy about the operations going on, adding that he is confident that the government knew that efforts were being made by the PNCR to get the exact amount owed clarified in order to have the taxes paid off.
An amount of $100M has been touted as the amount owed in taxes by the party, but according to Corbin, that amount includes accumulated interest and will thus have to be verified depending on what the principle was over a period of time. “We will be ready to pay as soon as it is rectified,” he added.
The party leader has however expressed reservation about the matter, as it is one that is being investigated, and may very well be one that ends up in litigation.
City Mayor Hamilton Green was accused of not addressing the non-payment of taxes on the part of the PNCR due to him being a member of the party’s executive. However, Green,while acknowledging that the party is continuing to make efforts to pay, noted that there are some technical problems in the Sophia area that are yet to be regularised. For this reason, he said that the municipality has sought advice as to what level of taxes, whether institutional, commercial or domestic, should be attached to properties owned by the PNCR. “If for example they have buildings being utilised for business purposes, as in the case of one building which was a business but is now a school, we have got to find out when the school began and the business ended. These things take time.”
According to the Mayor, every effort is being made to recover taxes generally but added that the efforts are being constrained by the legal system and by, in some instances, the inability of some people to satisfy this aspect of their obligations. Quite recently he revealed that the municipality had developed a technique (Amnesty) of waiving interest as an incentive for people to come forward. However, Green noted that the question is seen in the wider economic context of regulations which are not like some in North American cities where a municipality can simply take away a man’s property with some degree of facility.
“It is a matter that has engaged the legal people and in fact ought to have been part of the new Local Government Reform to give the municipality a simple mechanism to recover it’s taxes from delinquent property owners,” Green asserted.
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