ARE WE BEING ASKED TO ‘EXPOSE OURSELVES
In all 3 daily newspapers on Wednesday you may have seen a full page notice to property owners outlining certain facts and possible obligations under the proposed new Property Tax legislation. Chief among them is the completion of a Valuation Return Form. And curious as we are, we followed the directions in the newspaper and downloaded a form to get a closer look. But what we found was a string of very personal and complicated questions to be accompanied by some even more troubling supporting documents that the Ministry of Finance is requesting to determine the rental value of your property. A fraction of that figure will then become your annual property tax.
In this day and age of ‘criminals gone wild’ here in Trinidad and Tobago, we wonder, how many people are willing to freely provide some of the supporting documents that the Ministry is asking for? A site plan and a sketch of your home. A copy of your deed. A photograph of the exterior of your home etc etc. Sounds like pretty sensitive information to me that criminals could use to our disadvantage. All of these things, if not properly secured would end up coming back to haunt us. The Ministry has not given any assurances of security and confidentiality and that should not be taken for granted.
Not only is violent crime on the rise but we have been hearing more and more reports of housebreaking and robberies at private residences. We have also been hearing stories of property fraud, that is, peoples’ land and homes being sold right under their noses by fraudsters who create false deeds or gain access to the real thing without the owner’s knowledge. Therefore, a picture and a site plan of your home would become an asset to a burglar in planning an attack while a copy of your deed would be a welcomed advantage to a fraudster trying to ‘pipe out’ your house. Wouldn’t it?
Crime of all sorts is on the rise and with a police service already overworked we feel certain that a matter as important as the Valuation Return Form should be taken seriously. The Ministry of Finance must ensure that your information would be treated with the same level of protection as the banks treat your hard-earned cash. We feel strongly that the Property Tax should have never been disbanded. But until such an assurance is provided, we sincerely doubt whether property owners will give such information freely. No one want to deliberately shoot himself in the foot.
April 21st, 2017