Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Egerton Chang | Tax amnesty; US presidency; and Poppa’s Day

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton, presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

What's the use of a debtor owing you $X if he/she doesn't/ won't/can't pay? What if you need the money rather urgently? And what if he/she is willing to pay you $X-Y% now?

Everyone has faced that apparent dilemma at one time or the other. Even down to the schoolkids.

For instance, my son (grade seven) has a friend who borrows 'lunch money' and haas owed him $500 for some time.

There comes a time when my son is in dire need of a few hundred dollars. He would like to get back the full $500. The friend says all he has on him now is $400 and offers that. My son, being a bit desperate, considers it and quickly settles for the $400.

I use this story (and the roles are probably reversed on a number of occasions) to point out that the same logic applies to the Government at this time.

I will use property tax in this instance, but it is applicable to all taxes.

Let's say you own a property with a value (for tax purposes) of $2,200,000. And let's say you owe property taxes for the past seven years. You would owe the Government in excess of $287,000 ($199,750 principal, $16,125 penalty, and $71,625.72 interest).

And let's suppose the land owner (you) is willing to make payment of $200,000 ($75,000 now and five monthly postdated cheques of $25,000 each). That would at least cover the principal.

Bear in mind that the economy is not exactly booming and the landowner also has pressing things to pay (like school fees, rent/mortgage, grocery, gas) that he/she may find more imperative to pay at this time.

Remembering that this scenario is probably repeated well over 10,000 times, I suggest that perhaps it might be best for the parties to come to some agreement in this regard.

In other words, I am suggesting a property tax amnesty.

My recollection is that such an amnesty was implemented 12-15 years ago with a fair degree of success. I, for one, certainly took advantage of the opportunity and paid off all my property taxes at that time.

By the way, is the Government's nose clean in relation to property tax owed by its various bodies/companies?

I challenge the GOJ to be bold enough to publish those 'government' entities that owe property taxes.




Well, the last Democratic primary (Washington, DC) took place last Tuesday (14th). Hillary beat Bernie by the highest percentage of the popular vote (57.76%) of the entire campaign. It is also higher than Obama's best result of 2008.

In fact, while Sanders has done much better than anyone dared to anticipate when he announced his candidacy, his campaign results actually pale to that of Hillary's campaign against Barack in 2008.

For instance, Clinton lost the popular vote to Obama by just 41,622 votes, or a razor-thin 0.1 per cent. Sanders lost by a whopping 3,775,437 votes, or 13.6 per cent (Real Clear Politics).

In terms of pledged delegates, Hillary lost by 102 in 2008, while she beat Bernie by 338 delegates in 2016.

And in terms of pledged plus super delegates, Hillary, lost by 312.5, while this year, she bested Bernie by 919.

She didn't demand anything in 2008 when she had a better case to do so. So what can Bernie demand and get in 2016?

Hillary quickly, endorsed Barack in 2008 and she and Bill campaigned hard for him. Yet, there is no indication, at this time, that Bernie will do the same for Hillary. Perhaps we have built up the false belief that he, a lifelong Independent, has any real loyalty to the Democratic Party.


Poppa's Day


I first travelled overseas when I was 21 years old. It was to Montreal, Canada. I was going to attend McGill University to do my master of business administration (MBA).

I had resolved that the only way I would attend university overseas would be on a scholarship so that I would not require any assistance from my parents.

I had pledged that to myself. That is why I attended the University of the West Indies (UWI), the first in my family to attend university in Jamaica.

Independent I was, and my double first-class honours resulted in the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship. It took care of everything, even providing a per diem allowance before I left these shores. (Thanks, Prof Lalor for writing one of my recommendations). That's the first time I encountered the term 'per diem'.

When I was leaving for the airport, my father came to me and said, "Take this." He had some money in his hand. I said, "No, Poppa, I don't need it."

My brother, Victor, took me aside and said, "Paulie, take it. You don't see you are hurting his feelings." I took the money.

That's the last time I saw my father alive. Poppa died one year later when I was still in Montreal. It is ironic that as it turned out, the money he gave me paid for my airline ticket to attend his funeral.

I was always conscious of the fact that as a child, I had certain responsibilities. 'Children should be seen and not heard' was the mantra in the family. One could understand this as with 13 children to adulthood living under one roof, it could get rather noisy and confusing. I learnt that if I couldn't help, the least I could do was to get out of the way.




Poppa, Percy, or Pops led by example. He didn't have to teach us everything. He showed us that with his hard work, whatever he made was ours in a collective way. It was up to us to follow.

Come to think about it, Chang's Emporium, Jamaica's first supermarket, which he and Momma started, had a motto, 'Chang leads, others follow', that had this element of leading by example.

We, the younger set, had quite a few examples to follow. Our sisters, all five older than us, were very industrious and quite bright, four of them gaining first, second, and third degrees, and the first acting as our surrogate mother. They were our models.

I firmly believe that children have certain responsibilities to their parents (read: guardians) directly, and to the wider community, generally.

I would hate to think that it was solely because of my Chinese upbringing that I was conscious of my responsibility at an early age. To help wrap sugar, salt (I hated the moist, sticky feel), bird seed, etc. To clean out the bird cages that my father kept, at least once per month. To wash the yard every Sunday.

It was not a case of being forced to work; rather, it was more a matter of trying to be less of a burden.

We are constantly bombarded with the rights of children. But children need to do their part, too. Every little bit helps.

If a child can try not to leave anything at home when leaving for school in the morning, this would greatly alleviate the strain on the parent. Or making sure they do their homework. Or washing the dishes. Or ironing their school uniforms.

We can all think of little ways a child could make our lives easier. Even if they cannot do that little bit, at least don't get into trouble that will complicate the life of their parent/guardian. We have enough of a hard time trying to provide for the family.

Happy Father's Day, Poppa. And to all the fathers who are trying out there!

- Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to and