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Oct 29, 2009

PM approves of City Hall’s discounts/incentives on property tax

Story PictureThe prime minister also commented on the current debacle at City Hall. Councillor Leila Peyrefitte held the post of Revenue Collections for the years of 2006 to 2008. During those years she initiated a plan to offer discounts and incentives to businesses as a trade-offs to property tax payments. The Ministry of Local government had not approved of the scheme. Whether or not it was legal is still up in the air, but the Prime Minister indicated today that discounts are advertised in some newspapers. Because the legal standing is uncertain, the Prime Minister said that he advises municipalities to honor the ministry of local government for the time being. The PM said he will propose an amendment to allow local governments to offer discounts with checks and balances. What it really means is that the PM approves of the discounts that councillor Peyrefitte and other councillors gave to businesses thus far.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“It is not that the Audit Department has said that the municipal bodies have no power to offer discounts. It is that the Ministry of Local Government has said that. And as a consequence of the Ministry of Local Government saying that, the audit then questions the municipalities about discounts that have been given. I am not sure as to what the legal situation is. I believe the Ministry of Local Government points to the fact that the—these are discounts with respect to property taxes—points to the fact that town’s property tax laws provides specifically for write-offs or discounts in the case of indigent persons and the suggestion is that while it says nothing about other persons, that must mean that it deliberately says nothing about any other form of discounts and that therefore, discounts are limited to indigent persons and can only be done with the permission of the Ministry of Local Government. My own advisors tell me that they are not sure that that is the legal position. But the council’s feel that the offerings of incentives does result in people paying more quickly and certainly where the question of arrears is concerned, result in people being prepared to come up with a least a portion of their arrears on the basis that another portion is discounted. I suppose to some extent, it’s a matter of opinion but you can’t quarrel with the fact that it is a well-known, legitimate and by most accounts effective commercial measure. You go to a store and you ask for a discount. So my point is that there can be nothing morally wrong with the discount feature. The council’s are convinced that it does help as long as we can put in place the mechanisms to ensure that there is no abuse of the discount procedure, we will legislate to formally enshrine it.”

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