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TAXATION! THE RICH BENEFIT; THE POOR PAY! By Eugene Reynald

posted 31 May 2017, 11:30 by Gerry Kangalee
The indecent haste, ineptitude, dishonesty and insensitivity of the roll out of the property tax and the trauma to which the public is being subjected to by it clearly suggests the number one priority for Imbert is that he “needs” the money. Image result for colm imbert cartoon

The sarcasm inherent in his statement the “I vex with myself too” in response to the public outcry did nothing to help his case.

I have no problem with a Property Tax, except regarding i) the manner of its roll out ii) the traumatic effect it is having on citizens. iii) the fact that if revenues is what Imbert is trying to find, there are several other ways for him to save/earn money i.e. increase revenues, which he is ignoring.

Most of the information that was being requested of citizens are in the files of some state agency, but it is because of the inefficiencies and laziness of those working in the public sector that citizens, with a gun to their heads, are being forced to spend money and time to come to them to get the same information that public servants were too lazy and inefficient to get from themselves. What shocked me is that despite their anger many citizens are accepting of offensive treatment from persons they employ to protect and serve their interests.

The information being sought is to prepare an Assessment Roll (data base) of all properties and their owners – including, inter alia, the use to which these properties are being put. Such a data base will also be accessible to various state agencies and public officials including those in Town & Country Planning Division, the Protective Services, Inland Revenue Department, etc. It is probable that private citizens will also have access to same – it is almost definite that some will; especially those I refer to as the privileged.

In a fair, just and less corrupt society this information, if efficiently used (especially by the BIR), can help the state capture billions in revenues. The information can also be used by public officials to “solicit” from their “clients” and generally to redirect to their own bank accounts a significant part of the revenues that should go towards providing goods and services to citizens.

The collection of arrears of taxes going back many years from persons who own properties and have not been declaring their earnings from such would immediately yield tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to the State - if the owners are issued with Notices of Sale – as he has threatened to do to homeowners. Is it that Imbert would be more vex with himself if he decides to go after such delinquents – most of whom would be considered privileged, rather than illegally tyrannising homeowners for relative pittances?

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Image result for trinidad tax cartoono me, if tyranny is not threatening citizens with fines and sale of their homes if they do not comply with a process that Mr. Imbert - as a Minister and Legislator of long standing should know is illegal…I do not know what is. 

It is important to note that the absence of an up to date Assessment Roll (data base) – which is what Imbert is hastily working on developing now, is due to inefficiencies and corruption in the public service – involving in many instances Attorneys at Law…as always.

The public had nothing to do with this state of affairs in the public sector that has resulted in our dysfunctional and inequitable property tax collection regime, yet they are today being threatened and tyrannised by Mr. Imbert and subjected to great cost, stress and inconvenience to meet the cost for correcting it so it can start generating revenues so the good times can continue to roll for those in the public sector and the privileged.

Most of the squatting being done today is on state lands so the issue of dealing with squatters or obtaining revenues from them is wholly under the control of the Cabinet and the State. But we all know that encouraging squatting is a vote getting/protecting enterprise and no public official is going into a squatting community to look for squatters far less to get them to pay property tax. That work is too risky and climbing those hills and going through that bush on a daily basis is just not what public servants do. Also of course squatters don’t want their names to be on any data base or Assessment Roll.

There are prime lands owned by the State (for State read you and I) which are located in Westmoorings, Woodbrook, Ocean Avenue, St. Clair, Reclaimed/Foreshore lands, Ellerslie Park, Federation Park, Chaguaramas, Point Lisas, Various Industrial Sites, “Down the islands”, etc.

On most of these lands leaseholders pay close to peppercorn or minimum lease rents. These lessees also sell, rent and otherwise transact these properties and earn obscene windfall profits/surpluses with no part of this going to the State as the Lessor. A justified, substantial and potential income from these sources is easy to collect but for some reason it is not being pursued by Mr. Imbert. He prefers instead to traumatise and oppress lower income, lower middle income and even non-income earning property owners. This cannot be what Government and fairness and equity is about.

Taxes paid or to be paid by the privileged usually end up being paid by the poor or avoided/evaded by some other means. In some cases - because it can be offset against perks enjoyed by the privileged including senior public officials - e.g. Shamfa’s telephone bills,
Image result for shamfa telephone bill cartoon her meals/entertainment costs, travel expenses, gas bills, vehicle purchase and whatever else they wish or can get away with. All of these perks and much more are of course enjoyed by many persons in the private sector. 

Most forms of taxes, including the Property Tax, are therefore unfair and inequitable. This inequity is further enhanced when one considers that the proceeds from our patrimony of oil and gas and their derivatives, which is owned equally by all citizens is distributed secretly/corruptly and inequitably, usually to persons that are privileged and have their “sponsors” in Cabinet and/or the Central Bank.

Justice, generally, and accessing advice for avoiding taxes is unaffordable to all groups other than the privileged – and even many in the latter group do find themselves disadvantaged with regard to both.

Imbert and his colleagues in Cabinet have a clear understanding of these realities but for some reason they refuse to pursue more equitable ways to raise revenues such as by imposing taxes on high end vehicles and other imported luxury items and making it mandatory for all citizens holding cash and assets abroad or earning revenues from investments there to fully declare these or incur serious penalties including having these confiscated.

These would be the first steps in an action plan to make such persons account and then to tax whatever they have. I bet that would make him so mad at himself that himself would tell himself no dam’ way that is going to be done).

Systems should be set up to tag and monitor each foreign exchange transaction (and the transactee doing each transaction) that commences at the Central Bank. Such monitoring should also be done of those financial institutions to which they at the Central Bank sell forex. I believe this is being done but God knows why because the stuff leaves this country at an alarming rate and a lot of it ends up being hoarded in private accounts abroad or used to acquire high end real estate holding in foreign.

The storage, processing and analysing of this information is simple IT work and can be done routinely by a few persons, if it is collected and submitted by those organisations/personnel in an optical character recognisable (OCR) format laid out by the IT experts.

The question is: there is the need to do such information gathering and it is in the public interest to have it done and made public; if only because almost all the money involved is public money, gathered by the State on our behalf and it should be accounted for, why is Imbert not even making the effort to do so?”

All citizens know that the State Sector and its proliferation of institutions and state owned enterprises is wasteful, inefficient and corrupt and we, the people, are being under-served and our patrimony wasted by persons working in these arms of the State. The waste and corruption is glaring and obscene and is paid for by taxes and the trading of various elements of our patrimony.

To demand o
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f citizens, under threat of fines and penalties, more taxes to support and fund these “goings on” and finance the elitist and obscene lifestyle of delinquent public officials (and their friends and family) is offensive, coercive, unconscionable, uncivilised and tyrannical.

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axes are to be used to deliver goods and services to taxpayers; not to support the “need and greed” of public officials and the privileged. In knowing the latter to be fact, based on the abundance of evidence all around us, is it not the right and duty of the public given this spectacle, to be aggrieved and openly express and display objection to the imposition of any new form of taxation? Do citizens not have the right to say no taxation if their interest is not being represented by those in Cabinet? 

Incompetence and corruption is widespread among public officials and Imbert knows it. He also knows that whatever he is about will not be achieved because it requires honest, diligent and competent public officials to execute and manage the programme – and those are harder to find than the Yeti.

None of our endeavours and ideals as a society will be realised unless and until we deal with the problems within the public sector. Sure Imbert will be able to use the Law to extort some of the required revenues from the poorer citizens, but it will have to be shared with many of the corrupt public officials and private sector personnel who, with their Attorneys and Accountants, are preparing to feed off not only those of us who will be paying the Property Tax directly but all of us who will end up paying what others should be paying but which we will have to pay in the end.
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