Property owners angry as bills arrive days before land tax is due – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Property owners angry as bills arrive days before land tax is due

Angry homeowners are furious after claiming they have been given just days to pay their annual land tax bills.

And one landlord has questioned why Government has failed to amend the charge to take into account plummeting property values in recent years.

The bills were sent out by mail last week, although The Royal Gazette understands that many were not delivered until Thursday or Friday.

A letter accompanying the bill states that payments must be made by this Wednesday, September 11 — giving some residents just three working days to make the payment on time.

This newspaper spoke to a number of property owners who expressed anger with the bills. One St George's resident, who asked not to be named, said that when he first opened the letter — which he received on Friday morning — he assumed that it was a notice reminding him that a payment would be due in the coming weeks.

“I couldn't believe it when the bill stated that I have to pay this next week,” they said.

“In fact, when I saw the payment date, which was printed as ‘9/11/2013', I at first hoped that I wouldn't be expected to pay until November 9. But I now realise that it means I have to pay by September 11 — that's just a few days away.” The homeowner said that he had not received any prior notice about the bill, and believed Government should have given more warning.

“Yes, every year, we're sort of aware that this thing is coming, but I can never remember when exactly it's due and I don't think Government should spring it on us like this. There doesn't seem to be any reason why they couldn't have sent these bills out a month ago, giving us more time.”

The homeowner also questioned the accuracy of bills, claiming that the rental value of his property had dropped in recent years.

Bills are calculated on the annual rental value (ARV) of properties, with homes in higher-value brackets being charged a higher percentage of the ARV. Rental values are assessed every five years and the last assessment was carried out in 2009.

“I'm certainly not getting the rent that I'm supposed to be getting according to the bill — I haven't been for a long time and I expect a lot of other people haven't been,” they said.

“Rental values have come down a great deal in the last few years and I think a reappraisal should have been done before this year's bills were sent out. I can't see how it can be accurate because, by my calculations, I should be in a lower band.”

A Government spokesman claimed that demand notices were posted at the end of July and beginning of August.

“Normally, a six-week period is allowed between distribution of the notices and payment date and an advertisement was placed in the print media on 16 August notifying taxpayers that demand notices were being distributed,” the spokesman said.

“For the majority of the taxpayers, the tax rates did not change so the land tax payable this period will be the exact same amount as last period. Therefore, receipt of a demand notice should not affect their ability to pay — land tax is payable twice a year and it is due around the same time every year. Land owners should be aware of their obligations with regards to land taxes due on their property.”

Asked why bills did not reflect fluctuations in rental values, the spokesman confirmed that properties were last assessed in 2009, and will be assessed again next year.

“Between revaluations market rental values fluctuate,” the spokesman said.

“Whether the changes have been increases in market rental values as in the past or decreases as more recently, the assessed ARVs remain based on the levels of value at the date of deposit of the Valuation List.”

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Published September 09, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 08, 2013 at 11:33 pm)

Property owners angry as bills arrive days before land tax is due

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