$160m in properties added to tax roll

$160m in properties added to tax roll
Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Finance K Peter Turnquest (FILE PHOTO)

DPM: Government looking to add $21 million to annual real property tax intake

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Government has added 550 new dwellings with an estimated  appraised value of $160 million to its tax roll under its Real Property Tax Modernization Project, according to Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest.

Turnquest made the revelation at the 8th Annual Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference, hosted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the International Property Tax Institute (IPTI) at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort.

“Since the project started earlier this year, almost 16,000 properties have been assessed, including residential, commercial and vacant lands,” Turnquest said.

“For the tax roll next year, we added 550 new dwellings with an estimated appraised value to the Tax Roll of $160 million. With 20 per cent of the island of New Providence assessed already, the project is on target to be completed in its 18-month time frame.”

Turnquest acknowledged that the Bahamas’ real property tax management system is “quite antiquated”.

“Evolving to a modern and progressive tax administration is a top priority for many developing nations, including those in the region like our own. We take pride in the fact that we are implementing a comprehensive plan to completely revamp our system, starting with a massive data collection initiative that will update the real property register.”

He continued: “Property taxation plays an essential role in financing the cost of government.  In The Bahamas, taxes on property are pegged to generate $131 million, or six per cent, in annual revenue for the fiscal year.

“Efforts to strengthen the RPT system are specifically targeted to add an estimated $21 million in RPT revenues annually, with an expected increase in the Real Property tax roll by about 30 per cent.  The data collection exercise that we have underway is the foundation for addressing the various known challenges we have with our RPT system.”

Turnquest said computerizing real property tax data is key to arriving at a more fair and accurate valuation.

“It is difficult to arrive at a more accurate and fair valuation system if your data is not fully computerized; if your systems pay little or no consideration to market information; if the values on record are based on decades-old market information,” he said.

“In the future, we will not have to worry about these legacy issues, as we are doing ownership research and reconciliation, land pricing and sales analysis, among other things. Upon completion of our data collection and data entry, an update of land and building rates will be possible using a fully enabled Computer Assisted Mass Assessment (CAMA) software tool.”

The government is working with Tyler Technologies, one of the largest and most established international providers of integrated software and technology services focused on the public sector.

“They are specialists in the field of mass appraisals and technology-driven tax solutions,” said Mr Turnquest.

He said Tyler Technologies has engaged dozens of Bahamians to implement the work, some 37 to date.

“These Bahamians are being uniquely exposed to and trained in specialized skills that are in global demand. The private sector has long awaited the government to undertake this work in earnest,” Turnquest added.

“Frustrations around the real property tax system have existed for a very long time, particularly from an ease of doing business and fairness perspective. The Government is committed to transforming its RPT system into a model example for the region.”