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Aug 17, 2017

Relief for Indigent Property Taxes is Based on Process

Philip Willoughby

Campaign efforts to elect a U.D.P. mayoral candidate for Belize City are in full swing and, as expected with any political race, promises are being made ahead of the August twenty-seventh convention, as well as the March 2018 municipal elections.  Among those assurances is a relief for residents who cannot pay their property taxes.  They would, of course, need to qualify for the exemption.  But it is not as easy as walking into City Hall and declaring your inability to pay, despite provisions in the law which allow for indemnity.  The matter is somewhat a bone of contention within the Belize City Council, eliciting responses from Mayor Darrell Bradley, as well as Phillip Willoughby or Dion Leslie.  While the outgoing mayor maintains that tax exemptions aren’t the council’s policy, Willoughby cites legislation which speaks to that kind of relief. 

 

Phillip Willoughby, City Councilor

“It is law.  You noh need policy, yoh got wahn law.  Do you need to bring it to the council?  Maybe I could have said in a council meeting, you know this is the law, but granted the gravity of the situation it is the law.  The law is specific to the letter.  If any property owner fits or meets the criteria and it is validated, of course you will get that ease, it is the law.  So why all ah this back and forth and discussion over ease for indigent persons or the less fortunate or the unemployed or if you can’t simply pay because of the situation.  It is not because you’re unemployed you wahn get di ease, but your situation before the municipal court, because, you know, those are the people who look at the taxes and if yoh noh di pay, yoh get di summons.  So there has to be a process, we understand that.  Yoh noh just wahn get up and write off something fi somebody, no.  And the criteria is outlined within the law and it is specific.  So when you di think and yo di back and forth bout how fi create ease pan people, in these cases man, you cyant have wahn heart if that da how yo di behave with the law.”

 

Dion Leslie

Dion Leslie, City Councilor

“What councilor Willoughby said, it’s the law.  It’s there in black and white, but how it’s enacted, how it’s carried through, there are more procedures.  There’s a vetting process that has to take place.  First of all, City Council doesn’t right off taxes like that, that has to go to the minister and it’s under the minister, on a case by case basis, the minister decides if the person qualifies, if they’re indigent.  If all the facts are presented then the minister has the authority to write off the tax in full or write off a portion of the property tax.  So it’s something that we have to get that understood by everyone.  It’s there in the law but it’s not something that city council writes off the taxes just like that.  It has to follow the procedure and that’s all we are saying.”

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