A new and improved property tax structure will return before Finance Minister Larry Howai delivers his next national budget in 2013, Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie said yesterday.
The date of imposition of the tax will be decided collectively by the Cabinet, he added.
In a telephone interview with the Express, Tewarie said it was estimated that some $360 million was lost as a result of the non-collection of taxes from since 2010, and a new tax structure would definitely be implemented come next year.
No taxes on land and buildings have been collected since 2010, when the People's Partnership Government, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, assumed office.
In 2009, the former Patrick Manning-led People's National Movement (PNM) administration was moving toward implementing a reformed taxation system and passed the Property Tax Act 2009 in the Parliament, which would have seen an increase in property taxes.
The Congress of the People (COP) then launched a massive "Axe the tax" campaign against this measure and last year the People's Partnership Government repealed the Property Tax Act, as promised in its manifesto.
However, millions of dollars in revenue are being lost and, in his budget presentation on Monday, Howai said the tax will return—but one that is fair and just.
"We shall continue the waiver of tax liabilities which commenced in 2010 until the complete framework for implementing this tax is put into place," Howai added.
Last July, Howai spoke of the return of property tax in an interview with the Sunday Express.
Tewarie yesterday told the Express the Government decided to waive the taxes once again and make way for a new system.
"I think that the choice was between reverting to the old land and building taxes or putting into place something that was fairer and more equitable and also realistic in its response to the contemporary situation in Trinidad and Tobago, and I think that is what prevented the Minister of Finance from making a decision now," said Tewarie.
Asked if there was a timeframe as to the re-implementation of land and building taxation, Tewarie said, "I would think that over the course of the next year and even before the next budget we should be able to put something acceptable and reasonable in place.
"...I think the people of this country are anxious to pay their taxes and will be quite willing to comply with the new system and the new plans," added Tewarie.
Asked whether people would have to make retroactive payments for the three years they did not pay any property taxes, Tewarie said, "Retroactivity is out of the question."
"All is not lost. If we put a good system in place that people are satisfied with and from a governance point of view is a good system, I think that will make up for the loss so far," said Tewarie.
Tewarie also disclosed that the land use policy and physical development plan were in the works.
Regional plans, he said, were created for 14 local government districts and also for Tobago. Pilot projects in San Fernando, Port of Spain, Arima and Tobago are now in motion.
Tewarie said the Ministry hired a consultant to integrate the regional plan into a national plan, and on this basis the land use policy will be developed.