IS it any wonder our country is in the financial state it’s in?
Never mind bringing in income tax – how about just collecting the money that’s owed already?
In today’s Tribune, we report that up to 40 percent of real property tax bills never reach the intended taxpayer. Unpaid arrears are more than $600m.
How hard can it be to make sure that a bill gets in the hands of someone who owns a piece of property?
There is a physical address that bill is connected to – if no one collects it from their address and they end up not paying the bill, well, that’s their problem and that should end up in the default process, maybe ending up in court. Don’t pay it long enough and that should even end up with the property possibly being forfeit.
Seriously, if this is how we fail to deal with bills on buildings that, by their nature, are large and noticeable, then how on earth would we implement an income tax on people who move around?
It also apparently takes two years for penalty surcharges for non-payment to be added.
Let’s flash back to all the debates over whether BPL or the Water and Sewerage Corporation should be cutting people off for non-payment – with many of those customers likely caught up in the pandemic economic slowdown and unable to spread their money around enough to keep up with the light and water as well as putting food on the table.
For those who were cut off, how outraged must they be that people with entire properties are simply not paying – and one of the reasons is that no one can seem to find the owners of these buildings?
The Minnis administration can’t even pretend this is just a legacy of governments that went before them – arrears went up under this government, by $78.21m.
How much of that money could have paid for financial support for people who have been furloughed? How much could have gone towards feeding those in need?
Meanwhile, over at Albany, filled with some of the richest residents in The Bahamas, we discover that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, just $401,000 flowed to the public treasury after $29.498m in VAT was “deferred”. This in a year when Albany got more than $23m in tax breaks.
We were never under any illusion that there was a level playing field – but these numbers certainly highlight the difference between the poor who get their lights turned off for falling behind and the rich who barely pay a penny.
The new US president, Joe Biden, has previously said that paying more in taxes is patriotic. It puts money in the hands of the nation that can be used to improve it. This isn’t even a matter of paying more – this is a question of paying any at all.
This is a system that needs to be fixed. Property tax should be one of the easiest taxes to collect and to monitor. The question is – who’s going to fix it?
National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Police Commissioner Paul Rolle need to do better over allegations involving police officers and Peter Nygard.
Last month, Mr Dames was asked about the investigation and told reporters he is confident the police force will investigate the allegations – but on Tuesday Commissioner Rolle said “you need to speak to Minister Dames”.
What did Mr Dames say yesterday? You guessed it: “That’s a question that you have to take up with the Commissioner.”
The Tribune, the public and other media aren’t stupid – we’re constrained by legal requirements to report on what has been alleged against the RBDF. But there is no one who has followed this story and has followed what is available on the internet who doesn’t know the names of certain officers who have been named in the Nygard controversy. The minister and the Commissioner are playing this game of back-and-forth, with the public caught in the middle never getting a straight answer.
What we would say is this – allegations have been made that go right to the heart of public trust in the police force. It has been claimed that Peter Nygard bribed certain senior police officers. It does not one thing to restore the public trust when it seems clear these allegations are not being taken seriously – and certainly don’t seem to be making any progress.
This should not be something that can just be batted away until people forget. Do better.