WE may know it as the Property Tax. But let’s call it by its real name -The Poverty Tax.
It was introduced in Trinidad and Tobago with effect from January 1, 2024. This “poverty tax” when previously existed averaged approximately $300 and under per annum per household. I remember a figure of $1,000 per annum being suggested by the minister of finance as to what the annual tax would most likely be when reinstated. In reality, this new “poverty tax” is nothing close to that figure. Many people are now being asked to pay between $5,000 to $12,000 per annum. This is causing much stress and anxiety among the many who are just unable to afford this back-breaking tax.
It seems like desktop valuations were done on residential homes that inflict a penalty on people just for living in certain areas with no appreciation of actual rental values that one can get at this time in the market.
It seems to me like people just went around neighbourhoods pulling figures out of thin air saying “these people have money so they can pay.” If the valuation division can get me a tenant for the rental figure quoted for my home, I will happily accept the tenant and pay the poverty tax without further issue.
It appears to me that the finance minister keeps testing the pain point of citizens to see how far he can go without reaction. So far it seems to have worked well for him. But this time he has taken things too far for property owners to accept these exorbitant rental figures.
A caring government is one that seeks to improve the lives of its citizens, so far all we have seen is tax after tax but still our roads are deplorable, citizens do not feel safe with 15 people being murdered in just the first week of this year and we are now seeing potentially higher water rates and electricity rates as there is a constant reduction in the standard of living in T&T.
First, the seven per cent online tax was introduced. Then higher taxes on vehicles with engines over 1600 cc. This immediately forced many of the middle class only to purchase the lower priced cars. No longer could they afford the cars in the 2,000 cc bracket that they were previously able to purchase. Yet, if you look at the personal cars of government officials, all of them want to buy Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. They feel they have reached and want to buy expensive Mercedes Benzs, expensive Mustangs, Porsches and even BMWs, these vehicles are well over 2,000cc and well over the prices that the average citizen can afford since they are not given the privilege to purchase without taxes.
Perhaps if they had to pay the taxes on vehicles, they would take into consideration how much taxes that the average citizens pay on motor vehicles. They can seek medical treatment abroad if they become ill whilst we the citizens who put them there will endure patients on the bench of a hospital for hours, one whole day, only to be told to come back the following day. Hope you see where I am going with this? Is this a caring government or do they care only about themselves and keeping themselves in governance so only they can live the “good life.” Wake up my people, wake up.
Many citizens have fallen into the trap of the “yard-fowl syndrome”. Every so often, a few handfuls of corn are thrown at you. It is never enough to fill you but it guarantees your loyalty to them. Many people are still facing serious financial constraints following the aftermath of Covid-19 and hyperinflation. Some have lost their jobs and are unable to obtain alternative employment.
Whilst I am not against the reintroduction of the “poverty tax”, the current approach is way too harsh, not done properly and too expensive at this time for our citizens. I foresee many persons being unable to afford to pay this new and unaffordable “poverty tax”.
The finance minister has offered deferral to pensioners who cannot afford to pay “the poverty tax”. Deferral only means the accrual of “poverty tax” on the home of the pensioner. This accumulated figure will have to be paid by the person who inherits the property. The finance minister has given the impression that persons are wealthy when they inherit these properties and will be able to afford to pay the outstanding poverty tax. I am still trying to understand the logic. He has also stated that properties will be inherited by wealthy attorneys. Is there a plan to award honorary law degrees to citizens?
Question: Will the deferred poverty tax for pensioners attract interest?
If someone at age 65 applies for deferral of the “poverty tax” and lives to 90. Can his son of 68 who is a pensioner seek another deferral of the “poverty tax” on the inherited property?
Finally, if you do not pay the “poverty tax”, after five years, the State will have the right to sell your property to recover the tax. Your largest investment – your home is now under attack by the state!
The state has gone out of control with this new “poverty tax”. The state cannot continue to tighten the noose around our citizens’ necks in such a heartless and uncaring manner.
Neil Gosine is an insurance executive. He is also the treasurer of the UNC and a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.
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