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Destination Downtown - Tax-relief boost

Published:Tuesday | February 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Urban Renewal Act amended to bolster city renewal

Plans for the redevelopment of downtown Kingston should get a boost with the recent amendment to the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) Act.

Persons have been taking advantage of tax relief provided under the Act, which was passed in 1995. Justice Minister Mark Golding is expecting more developers to move into downtown Kingston.

"Since the bill's inception, a number of developers have taken advantage of these incentives under that act, from a variety of sectors, including the banking and telecoms industries," said Golding as he piloted the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) Amendment Act in the Senate last Thursday.

"It is considered that the legislation has contributed to new life being breathed into sections of downtown Kingston such as King Street and Ocean Boulevard," added Golding.

The legislation, passed by the Senate, seeks to grant the minister of finance and planning the power to effect retroactive application of the incentives provided by the act, where he considers it prudent to do so, as well as to allow for modification to the relevant orders granting such incentives.

The act, provides relief from income tax, stamp duty and transfer tax, helping entities which carry out development in areas suffering from blight or urban decay, with a view to the improvement or restoration of those areas.

It also provides incentives, by way of tax relief, to persons who purchase bonds issued for the funding of such development. The incentive period for the approved developer designation is usually 10 years.

According to Golding, the amendments will strengthen the act, in order to ensure the efficient and effective administration of the incentives provided.

He noted that there are two Ministerial Orders that may be made under the act, the first involving the designation of an area as a special development area and the other relating to the designation of an approved developer.

Golding noted that while the finance minister is empowered to approve or deny applications, and also has specific powers of revocation in relation to approvals, the act does not give the minister power to alter an order once made.

The amended legislation will give the finance minister the power to vary the orders designating a special development area, or an approved developer, and enable such a variation to take effect from an earlier date where this is considered necessary.

Among the entities said to have already taken advantage of the benefits of the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) Act are JN General Insurance, GraceKennedy, Digicel, Corporate Strategies Ltd, Jamaica Teas and Jamaica Public Service Company.