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Property tax relief - Fears of April rate increase allayed

Published:Friday | March 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Devon Rowe

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

WITH THE land-revaluation exercise now complete, there are indications that property owners will not have to bear the burden of another hike in property taxes - at least not in the short term.

Many landowners were bracing themselves for another jump in land tax as it was anticipated that the revaluation of land would give rise to higher property values and, consequently, an increase in the tax.

However, these fears have been allayed by a well-placed government source, who told The Gleaner yesterday that there were no plans to push up the rate of property taxes in the new fiscal year.

The payment of property tax becomes due on April 1, and landowners have until the end of the month to make payments.

The reliable source indicated that an official announcement is expected to be made in April.

And while the revaluation of lands across the country has been completed, The Gleaner understands that the valuation roll has not yet been updated with the new information.

The Land Valuation Department, which is responsible for updating the property roll, is now awaiting instruction from portfolio minister Robert Pickersgill to carry out the exercise.

The department is to be assisted by Fiscal Services to update the more than 800,000 properties.

Appearing before Parliament's Taxation Committee in late February, Financial Secretary Devon Rowe had said the increase in the value of properties would not automatically mean an increase in property tax. He, however, said it was necessary to keep track of the movement of property values so that property tax could be more accurately calibrated.

"Land valuation could be moving, but if the cost of the service is not moving, there might not necessarily be an immediate need to increase property taxes. But it is always important that we have current as possible valuation, because when we wait until many years have passed before we do the valuation, it creates a shock to the taxpayer and to the system. Whereas, if we were adjusting incrementally over time, that adjustment could have been more easily absorbed every five or 10 years," Rowe told the parliamentary committee.

The last land-revaluation exercise was done a little more than 10 years ago.