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Appeal Court gives Gov't green light to resume collection of Property Tax forms

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Government has been given the green light to resume its collection and processing of valuation return forms required for the calculation of property tax.

In an oral ruling at the Hall of Justice this morning, Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Judith Jones dismissed injunctions granted by Justice Frank Seepersad on the eve of the original deadline for submission of the forms last month.

The decision on the injunctions centred around claims by the Commissioner of Valuations that participation in the procedure was entirely voluntary and would not attract sanctions or penalties for non-compliance.

As part of the ruling, the court ordered that the procedure could only be resumed after the Commissioner publishes notices in all three daily newspapers indicating the resumption and the voluntary nature of submitting the forms.

The notices are to be published one day a week for three consecutive weeks with the procedure officially resuming after the first notice is published.

The judges ruled that Seepersad was right to grant former agriculture minister Devant Maharaj leave to challenge implementation of the tax but said the injunctions were disproportionate considering the facts and procedural issues in the case.

Jamadar said while the State was able to make submissions during the first injunction hearing on May 19 when they joined the matter after hearing rumours of the ex parte injunction, Maharaj's attorneys were required to give the State official notice of its injunction when the application was filed.

Referring to the second injunction granted last week upon expiration of the first, Jamadar said it was based on claims by Maharaj that failure to comply would attract penalties from the Commissioner. However, Jamadar said it was unnecessary as the Commissioner had issued a release after the first stating that the process was voluntary.

Jamadar also mentioned that Finance Minister Colm Imbert had sent out a press release announcing the data collection programme. He said the collection of the forms was the sole purview of the Commissioner and his office should make all announcements concerning it.

Following the decision, Maharaj told reporters he still felt vindicated as he was challenging the mandatory submission of the forms and the court ruled that it should be done on a voluntary basis. He advised members of the public to exercise their discretion to voluntarily refuse to submit their forms and relevant documents.


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