The Land Tax Issue

Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roland Bhola has dismissed claims that people owning agricultural lands that remain idle have been receiving tax demand notices from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance.

The matter of the demand notices being sent out to farmers was raised by their Representative in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Keith Clouden who felt government should have first conducted consultation with the farmers to ascertain why their lands remain idle.

There are reports that within the past two weeks, a number of farmers have received the tax demand notices.

Sen. Clouden called for government to engage the farming community so that a proper program can be implemented in order to minimise the negative effects of the policy decision taken by the Keith Mitchell-led administration.

He said the lack of having adequate consultation with the farmers proves that government is not aware of the issues facing farmers that hinder them from putting their land into productive use.

Some farmers have been alluding to a sharp increase in praedial larceny and failure of the State to arrest the problem for their lack of interest in the agricultural sector.

In addressing the issue of the alleged tax demand notices being sent out to farmers, Minister Bhola who phoned into a local call-in program last week Friday said that IRD and his ministry are currently working out the dynamics to classify lands that are considered to be idle as opposed to lands that are in use.

“It is not true to say that people working the lands are being charged as idle lands. That taxation measure was announced but not yet implemented, so whatever tax they are paying for their land is what they are due to pay, and when they finalise the classification and the process… they would be charged under the idle land tax act”, he said.

Lands that are classified to be idle will attract a higher tax rate than those that are fertile.

The measure was reportedly taken by the Keith Mitchell-led Government in St,. George’s to boost the ailing agriculture industry and to raise revenue as part of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to be signed with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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