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‘Dock Tax’ Crackdown On Gated Communities

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The Port Department yesterday confirmed it is cracking down on fees owed by private/residential dock owners in New Providence’s gated communities, and issuing warnings of site visits to inspect “unregistered” facilities.

Captain Cyril Roker, the Department’s controller, told Tribune Business that it had been given the go-ahead from the Attorney General’s Office to initiate the tax crackdown.

The move has prompted residents of Sandyport, the private residential community at Cable Beach, to seek their own legal advice over the Port Department’s decision to enforce the fee/taxarion measures in its own Act.

A signed letter from Captain Roker, which has been issued to dock owners, states: “Please be advised that in accordance with the Port Authority Act, Chapter 259 section 40A, the Port Controller is sanctioned and obligated to collect an annual tax from any/all owners of private piers, wharfs or abutments on the island of New Providence.

“Therefore, the Port Department is requesting a site visit at your earliest convenience to conduct a survey of all unregistered docks and abutments.”

Speaking with Tribune Business on condition of anonymity, one Sandyport resident said: “Everyone in Sandyport received a letter from the Port Department about a site visit and registration of private docks.

“They want to charge people with docks or access to the canal a fee, which for private homes would be $2 per linear foot. I don’t know if that’s per month or what. We are taking legal advice on this. We don’t know if it’s just Sandyport or what. Obviously this is a concern because property values get affected if we’re the only ones affected by this. We don’t know if this is retroactive or not.”

Captain Roker yesterday confirmed that the Port Department has been issuing letters to private dock owners across New Providence, and not just at Sandyport.

He told this newspaper that while there had initially been a legal “back and forth” over the issue, it had been ‘ironed out’ with the Attorney General’s Office, effectively giving the Department the go-ahead to enforce the fees.

“One of the things we had lacked initially was enforcement,” Captain Roker said. “We’re going in every nook and cranny. We’re putting port officers on every major island; not just a port officer, two port officers and a clerk.

“Their job is to enforce the regulations and collect the revenue. Sandyport was one of the classical examples that we had to iron out with the Attorney General’s Office. It is a development that is private land, and they were under the belief that they didn’t have to pay the Government.

“Once the salt water hits your dock, if you have lake or whatever, that is Crown Land,” he continued. “The Government has a right to tax you on that. All those docks on Lake Cunningham and those gated communities, we are writing them and letting them know our intentions.

“Once we identified the owners we send them a bill. There’s no discrimination. Everyone has to pay. We want to make everyone current. We try to do that at least a month or two months in advance to give everyone a heads up.

“We’re not just here to collect money but we want to see what we could do to better the industry.

A lot pf persons try not to be delinquent. Sometimes the second homeowners sell their property and their lawyers make sure that, at the end of the day, whatever fees are owed they pay them up. Our job is to not be negligent on our part. We send out reminders because sometimes people forget.”

The Port Department’s crackdown could impact owners in some of New Providence’s most prestigous communities, such as the likes of Old Fort Bay and Lyford Cay.

The move is again likely to raise questions as to why another government agency has seemingly waited for some time to enforce the revenue laws, and be interpreted as another sign of the Government’s determination to collect every cent of revenue due to it amid the ongoing fiscal crisis.

Captain Roker said the issue of fee collection was under control, adding: “There were some who felt as though their development was outside the Government’s scope, even though they were paying their sea bed leases.

“Everyone is pretty much in compliance. At the end of the day, when it comes to revenue loss sometimes it’s our own locals who you have  to run down. We have no challenges, more or less, in that area. We may be late in collecting the fee payment because persons would have to mail their stuff in and, at least for now, we don’t take online credit card payments.”

According to the Act: “There shall be a charge levied and paid in respect to the financial year commencing July 1, 2003, and each succeeding financial year.”

For private jetties on New Providence, the fee is listed as $2 per linear foot. For commercial jetties it is $6.32 per linear foot, and for industrial jetties it is set at $4 per linear foot.

Private jetties situated on a Family Island are assessed a fee of $1.94 per linear foot; commercial jetties at $6.13 per linear foot; and  industrial jetties at $3.88 per linear foot.

Comments

The_Oracle 8 months, 1 week ago

More first world money grabbing tax structures from a Government that is starting to believe we all toil for their benefit. If it didn't come with such onerous and arbitrary implementation it wouldn't be so bad, but the fact is the special few will never pay it.

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DDK 8 months, 1 week ago

And to think, the Bahamas used to advertise as a country with very low taxation to attract foreign investors. We must now be very high on the global 'most taxed countries' list. They are taxing locals, foreign investors and visitors into oblivion. Talk about killing the goose.......

Government coming into power PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

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TalRussell 8 months, 1 week ago

Comrades! Do the boat dockers behind those waterfront gated communities think they should continue "staying afloat" and pay no fees into public treasury

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Economist 8 months, 1 week ago

Tal, anyone who lives behind those gates are already paying the bulk of what goes into the Treasury.

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B_I_D___ 8 months, 1 week ago

I pay almost as much in real property tax each year (and yes, sadly, I do pay it), but just shy of what a minimum wage employees take home pay would be each year...It's not so much the 'fee' the fee is minimal. Even if you have a 100 foot dock, which is BIG dock for a private residence, that is only $200 a year, it's minor, but it comes down to the interpretation of the law and legal precedents that have been set and in place for years. Now they think they can re-interpret the way the law reads to suit their needs. It will need to be decided in the courts, AGAIN, since this has been decided many times in the past, but they will ignore that fact.

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ohdrap4 8 months, 1 week ago

if you dirve a car, i'll tax the street if you take a walk i will tax your feet.

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observer2 8 months, 1 week ago

Actually the Bahamian people are subsidizing foreign gated communities because

  1. VAT is a regressive tax hurting the poor black people who buy more per capita

  2. No income tax so all the stock market capital gains of foreigners are not taxed. In their developed home countries they are taxed at a rate of 20 to 30%

  3. BEC, Water and Sewerage, Bahamas Air and everything else is utilized more per capita by the foreigners with their over-sized and homes, yachts and private jets than Bahamians. All of these government institutions are run at massive losses in Bahamian dollars and the government debt is owed by the Bahamian people. While the foreigner keep their money safely in US dollars out of the country.

I could go on and on but whats the use. Our dumb politicians have no idea how to fairly spread the cost of their incompetent government between foreigners and Bahamians.

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OldFort2012 8 months, 1 week ago

Lets do some maths, shall we: 1. Average Bahamian Income is $21,000. VAT on this is: 21k x 7% = B$1,470 on average per person per year. A "foreigner" will spend 10 times that, no problem. His VAT contribution is thus $14,700. 2. All the "stock market gains" you mention are taxed where they are made. You don't think they are made here, do you? Therefore, simply does not apply. Income tax: the overwhelming majority of "foreigners" do not have the right to work. Therefore what income tax you gonna charge them, brainbox? 3. If it wasn't for the "foreigners" paying their bills on time, BEC, Water, BahamasAir, etc. would be long bankrupt, as Bahamians are notoriously tardy in paying their bills. These institutions are run at massive losses because they are so inefficient, employing 100 people to do the job of 5 in the "first world". Look at average kwh electricity cost in Miami: 7 cents, and they make a profit. Here it is 35 cents and we are still losing money. Enough said. On top of all that you "forget" that the "foreigners" employ tens of thousands of Bahamians, who would just join the unemployment queue if they were not here. They bring in $100s of millions every year to support their lifestyles. Without that money the B$ would long ago have devalued to 30c US. As it still soon will. But at least we got 20 years of grace. I am just amazed that they are willing to put up with all the shit we come up with and they don't pack up and leave. Would be no more than we deserve.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 1 week ago

Countless wealthy foreigners have either acted on their exit plans or are in the process of doing so simply because of the "targeting" now taking place. These people just do not like being 'played' as fools.

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Porcupine 8 months, 1 week ago

Hi Old Fort, You got to choose the math you wanted. However, let's just ask a simple question. Inequality is growing fast, in almost every country in the world. Has this been fostered by the fact that the rich have been so much more productive, earning this money by the sweat of their brow? Or, could it be that the tax structures, pushed by the tax accountants and lawyers have figured out how to shift the entire tax burden of running the world onto the backs of the rest of the 99.9% of the population? After many years of watching the rich bitch about their burdens and their benefits to the rest of us, they statistically are getting richer. Mostly the economic gains go to the FIRE sector: finance, insurance and real estate. What do they produce? They actually suck money out of the real economy. I really get sick of these same tired arguments about how much this rich pay in taxes so the rest of us should shut up. The Bahamas is in a race to the bottom. That they don't have the right to work here doesn't mean they shouldn't pay the taxes on income they claim to make at the place they call their residence. I have watched first hand how many of the rich do it. It is a game to them. As usual, the poorest pay the hardest. After that, we still listen to why the rich should be treated with kid gloves so that they don't leave our wonderful island. Save your poppycock for children who don't think. The entire world is arranged so that the rich benefit disproportionately from all of OUR hard work. Ever heard of the French Revolution? Is it that time again?

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OldFort2012 8 months, 1 week ago

Hi Norman, you certainly make valid points. However, think about this one: if the tax rate in the Bahamas was the same as in the USA, would a single foreigner live here or would they all move to the Florida Keys (just an example)? What are the comparative advantages of the Bahamas? Good governance? Rule of Law? Low crime? Cheap prices? Cheap real estate? A good business climate? On any comparison metric you care to mention, we are so far behind the USA that it is not even funny. It is just tragic how bad we are. So, now equalize the tax structure and these islands will be quasi-deserts, with no jobs and no hope. You will have your "equality". All will have the same standard of living: the one "enjoyed" by our great grandfathers.

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Economist 8 months, 1 week ago

There areas many Bahamians living behind gates in Nassau and Freeport as there are foreigners. Also most of those houses are worth more than 250,000 so they pay real property tax were the poor don't. They pay hefty Customs Duty on their cars (no regression there). The foreigner employ Bahamian Accountants and lawyers, lots of VAT 7.5% on $10,000 worth of professional services ($750 +++). The rich foreigners pay their real property taxes. I am aware of bills up to $50,000 for many big properties. Plus all the NIB they pay for the hundreds of maids, gardners. Not to mention all the service contracts.

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Economist 8 months, 1 week ago

Also, they pay capital gains on their investments because they are paid at the source.

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B_I_D___ 8 months, 1 week ago

I'm a Bahamian living behind one of those gated communities with one of those controversial docks...so explain that one away...

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The_Oracle 8 months, 1 week ago

Funny thing is they are leaving, and in greater numbers. Many Bahamians will applaud this, but we will all pay the price for it. No tourists, no U.S. dollars to prop up our Bahamian dollar. Few foreign investors, fewer decent jobs. Wait 'til the Government proclaims Bahamians cannot hold U.S. dollars. It happened in Jamaica. Won't happen here? Ok, stand by. Wait 'til you cannot find or buy US $ for that trip to Walmart, even from the bank. Government debt payments will take precedent. All these new taxes are the only option left for a country left with no foreigners to tax and pillage. The Government is now willing, and able to feed on us.

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MonkeeDoo 8 months, 1 week ago

Thats the takeover of all these gated waterway properties. 14 years areears.

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killemwitdakno 8 months, 1 week ago

It costs to dock your boat on your own dock and canal side?

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B_I_D___ 8 months, 1 week ago

Technically yes...if you build your dock on crown land/seafloor it's taxable...it all comes down to the interpretation of crown land vs private property. Canals that were dug through solid ground that is private property remain private property. Developments that were formed around existing waterways or marshlands that were once crown land in that sense, those are taxable.

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SP 8 months, 1 week ago

....................... What Are The Benefits To Dock Owners For This Tax? .........................

A "TAX" is initiated to compensate government for some services rendered to those being taxed.

Exactly WHAT has government to do with or have done to assist in the development, ongoing maintenance or improvements to private docks that justifies them taxing us???????

This had to have come from a "genius" the likes of Alfred Gray, as no sensible individual could possibly have contrived such stupidity.

These buffoons will "TAX" the use of toilet seats next!!

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