Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
THE COMPLIANCE rate for property tax among residents in Portland is alarmingly low.
Jennifer Brown-Cunningham, who was deputising for secretary manager of the Portland Parish Council, said last year was a challenging one. She noted that while most persons complied with the first quarter payment, the remainder of the year saw a huge decline in compliance.
"This has been a trend," said Brown-Cunningham. "While the compliance rate is far better for this year over last year, residents have not complied with payments consistently, which creates a strain on the financing of property-related services in the varied communities. Property owners in the Buff Bay Valley are reluctant to comply with payments, as they have complained bitterly of the loss of land space - caused by erosion, land slippage."
Additionally, Brown-Cunningham said she is aware of the problem in the Rio Grande Valley, which is of a cultural and political nature. She noted that the Maroons have refused to pay property tax on the basis that they fought for the lands occupied by them, which they also claimed was given to them by their colonial masters as compensation for their struggles.
Between the period April 2012 and March 2013, the Portland Parish Council collected $67.87 million in property tax, which represents a compliance rate of 53.37 per cent. During the period April 2013 to July 2013, a total of $81.82 million was collected.
According to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Portland has $142 million in property-tax arrears.
public education needed
"Between the ministry and the local parish council, we need to rigorously pursue the aspect of public education. Unless property taxes are collected, the repairing and installation of street lights and the collecting and removal of garbage will not take place. For this parish, monies collected from property taxes are used for the repairs and installation of street lights and garbage collection.
But while some landowners are reluctant to pay their property tax, business operators, though not comfortable with the recent increase, have made strident efforts in making payments on time.
Business operator Patrick Lee said the payment of property tax is important for the preservation and restoration of community projects.
Several landowners including Ian Clarke, Adassa Spaulding, and Cyrus Bell, agreed that compliance is a must, noting that it was the only way that basic amenities in communities can be addressed and serviced. They, however, argued that the increase was taking a toll on their pockets.
What is property tax?
Property tax is a charge levied on all property in Jamaica.
Who should pay property tax?
All persons in possession of land. Such a person is defined by the Property Tax Act as the owner, occupier, mortgagee in possession, or other person in actual possession of such property.
Methods of payments
You may pay your property tax at any one of the 29 tax offices located islandwide. You may also pay online at www.jamaicatax-online.gov.jm.
Appeal procedures for exemption and relief
In the event of loss of land space due to land slippages, collapsed earth, erosion, or any other form of deterioration caused by a natural disaster or otherwise, property owners can visit their tax offices (Inland Revenue Department) and fill out a detail form indicating that situation. The property will then be re-assessed, and a new property value will be done as to the present state of that land. A new tax value will then be derived.
The link between property tax and property values
Property tax is calculated on the basis of unimproved property, while property value is calculated on the basis of actual value of improved lands.