The cash-strapped Georgetown City Council is seeking to recover billions of dollars owed in taxes by implementing a four-month amnesty period for defaulters.
The Municipal Amnesty Policy (MAP), seeks to target those citizens and businesses that continue to default in their tax obligations to the city. Under the new policy, they can avoid Court action by reaching an agreement with the City Council for the payment of the taxes. The amnesty period runs until the 31st March, 2022.
The initiative is being overlooked by the Special Circumstances Committee of the Council, which is headed by Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentor and includes the City Treasury Department.
The new policy was birthed during a meeting of the Georgetown City Council and has since been approved by Mayor Ubraj Narine. It came out of a discussion with the Council’s Finance Committee which examined various ways to get city residents and businesses to pay up their taxes.
“The purpose of this policy…is to establish and maintain orderly procedures for ratepayers who will receive pardons on a percentage on their tax liability and for the Council to receive outstanding taxes in the form of an agreement that can benefit citizens, organizations, and the Council. This policy is geared towards focusing on the interest and not the principal or the demand of the tax account” Mayor Narine explained.
The committee which will overlook the policy is also putting together a payment plan for those who may wish to pay off their taxes over an agreed period of time.
The Mayor warned that the City Council will have no other choice than to take Court action against the defaulters who ignore the amnesty while continuing to dodge their payments.
“Any person, individual, corporation, company trust, or partnership who fails to take advantage of this amnesty and also fail to pay his or her outstanding rates, shall be subjected to proceedings instituted by the Town Clerk, as provided in the Municipal and District Act 28:01, Section 222”, Mayor Narine added.
Based on information from the City’s Finance Department, more than $9 Billion is owed to the City Council in taxes. The Council currently receives just over 50% of taxes owed.
Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentor said once the taxes are collected, the City Council will be in a better position to improve the services it offers to its citizens.
“It will obviously benefit our citizenry but while it also benefits our citizenry it will also boost our revenues and increase our revenues to be able to do more for our citizenry, more developmental work, more infrastructure work, and at the end of the day, you do know we have to get subvention from central government but as long as we could be able to pull this situation off and to increase our revenue and bring it to some time that makes sense from 50%-55% maybe we move to 75% of our revenue we will be able to function more professionally and be able to do the work necessary,” Mentor said.
The Georgetown City Council has been facing major issues with tax collection for decades. The business community in Georgetown represents the largest group of tax defaulters to the municipality.