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City Council optimistic they can collect outstanding taxes

The Belize City Council, like most municipal authorities, suffered a huge impact in its coffers, a situation brought on in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. While economies struggle to recover, the ability to collect taxes remains a challenge. With between 18 and 21 million dollars in outstanding taxes, the Belize City Mayor says that it has to use the legal channels to collect some of that money. He explained the situation to the media today. 

Bernard Wagner, Mayor, Belize City: “This year has been a great improvement compared to 2020 and 2021. Again, I continue to allude to the fact that the city has 18 to 20 million out there you know. It’s how we at the city attack those revenues that are out there and so there are many ways you go after those monies that are out there and so you can’t say the city is short of money. We have $21 million owed to us and so we must use our resources to get those funds into the city.”

Dale McDougall, Love FM News: What specific measures are being taken to collect some of that revenue? 

Bernard Wagner, Mayor, Belize City: “Well we are using our legal recourse, obviously, though the court system, through auctions. You’ll see a ramp up of those in the near future. We have done that prior to the COVID setting in. We had slowed down a bit given that we knew that people couldn’t pay those taxes given COVID but things are moving back and so we have to begin to go back to that stance of using our legal recourse.”

As the council makes efforts to collect some of that money, it is likely that some of it will be written off. Mayor Bernard Wagner says that the council is going to consider tax breaks for the elderly and those on the margins. He was also asked to gauge whether people have been reluctant to pay up or not.

Bernard Wagner, Mayor, Belize City: “It’s a mixture. People have it hard. A lot of our residents find it very hard to pay those taxes. What we are doing as well is we are compiling a list to see what kind of break we could give to some of the elderly and those living at the margins. We’ll have to get that through the local government, obviously. But it’s changing and shifting the culture of complying with paying taxes man. If you own your property you have to pay the tax. During COVID, we understand you couldn’t pay but now you’re back. Employment is up. We have to get back to paying our taxes.”

Dale McDougall, Love FM News: Has the pandemic, in your view, sort of exacerbated that culture of not wanting to pay? That willingness to pay? It did for a short while but with our pressing via the legal arm, we see where people are now taking us seriously and beginning to come in to pay those taxes.