Senators support delay in land valuation review
It would be “almost suicidal” for the Government to collect less land tax from the public after the financial hit it has incurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Michelle Simmons, Vice President of the Senate, said reductions in rental prices since the pandemic meant a revaluation of properties scheduled for this year would almost certainly mean taxes would be cut.
Therefore she threw her support behind The Land Valuation and Tax (Special Provisions and Postponement of Preparation of Draft Valuation list) Act 2020, which will postpone the valuation for five years.
Senators were also told that land tax would not be raised in the next year.
Land tax is calculated on the annual rental value (ARV) of a property, which is usually revised every five years. The last ARV survey was conducted in 2015 and was due to be updated at the start of next year. The Bill extends the life of the 2015 survey to 2025.
Lindsay Simmons, Junior Minister for Social Development, Seniors and Home Affairs, said: “A post-Covid-19 valuation date ensures that the next revaluation period reflects the impact that the pandemic has on property values.”
Mrs Michelle Simmons said: “The pandemic has had such a huge impact on our community in many different ways. One is current rental values have declined considerably. Current rental values are a lot lower than they would have been in 2015.
“If those ARVs were calculated this year, government would have to assess a lower tax rate and therefore everyone would be jumping for joy as they would probably be paying less land tax.
“However, we need to take a more global view. We are talking about the same government that has had to dig deep into its pockets to find assistance for families who had no means of supporting themselves.”
She added: “It would be almost suicidal for government to calculate a lower tax rate and collect less land tax from members of the public at this time. I believe that the community at large will benefit as it means deficits will not increase and government can continue to give support to those who really, really need it.”
Ms Lindsay Simmons added: “We are putting a freeze on it so we are helping the economy to stay stable.”
Senators also passed The St George’s Club Act 2020. It grants a lease of the club to Hotelco Bermuda SGC for up to 262 years. Hotelco, the company that is part of the group developing the nearby St Regis resort, plans to refurbish the St George’s Club.
Owen Darrell, Junior Minister for the Cabinet Office, Education and Public Works, assured senators during questions that there would be public access to the club’s golf course and beach. However, restrictions may be put in place on beach access in the event of weddings or other special occasions, he said.
Mr Darrell added that 163 timeshare owners still remain at the club.
The Health Professionals (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2020 adding five additional regulatory bodies to Bermuda Health Council’s existing remit was also passed.
Questions were raised by Robin Tucker, Opposition senator, relating to whether there would be extra staffing and resources provided for BHC to manage the extra requirements. Curtis Richardson, Junior Minister for Health, Transportation and National Security, said her questions would be answered during next week’s Senate session.
Devonshire Bay will be renamed the Mary Prince Emancipation Park with the passing of the Bermuda National Parks Amendment Act 2020.
Ben Smith, Opposition senator, said: “This is a starting point for us to look at other parks in Bermuda and use it as an opportunity to highlight our history and heroes.”
The Health Insurance (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2020 allowing for a temporary extension of the deadline for Health Insurance Plan and FutureCare premiums from 60 to 90 days was passed as was the Digital Asset Business Amendment Act 2020 aimed at supporting financial innovation.