By NATARIO McKENZIE Tribune Business Reporter nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net THE 12 per cent decline in non-trade stamp taxes recorded in the Central Bank's quarterly report for the 2011 fourth quarter shows that the Stamp Duty increase continues to "discourage" buyers, realtors said yesterday. The Central Bank's said non-trade Stamp taxes declined by 12 per cent or $4.5 million to $33.2 million in the 2011 fourth quarter, which it said reflected "a fall-off in the intake from property sale transactions". Bahamian realtors, speaking with Tribune Business yesterday, said the numbers reflected what they have been saying all along - that the 2 per cent increase imposed across all Stamp Tax bands in the 2010-2011 Budget was discouraging buyers. While noting that the economic downturn has had some part to play in the slumping real estate sector, William Wong, principal of William Wong and Associates, said that Stamp duty increase did not help matters. Mr Wong told Tribune Business: "Every dollar that a client has to spend to get a piece of property is critical. It's important that this expense is kept to a minimum, so that people can afford to buy a piece of land or a house. "Sometimes trying to raise another $2- $3,000 is very taxing for persons, especially a young couple just starting out. If you take it higher and a person is spending $1 million to $3 million, and they have to spend an extra 2 per cent in Stamp tax, that adds up to a lot of dollars. It is discouraging, and obviously the number from the Central Bank support that support that." Mr Wong added: "We are in a bit of a recession, so maybe it's not entirely the fault of the Governmen, but it surely does not help at all. You are discouraging foreign investors from coming here because of the added expense for them to close the deal." Mario Carey, head of Mario Carey's Realty, who has long called for the government to revisit and reverse the Stamp duty increase, told Tribune Business: "It's definitely a deterrent. No one likes to pay taxes anyway, no matter where you go. The cost of doing the transaction is too high. When you go to do a deal, the lawyers negotiate their fees, the agents negotiate their fees, but the only thing that's consistent is the Government Stamp tax. The question is where is the incentive to buy."


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