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Land Tax Campaign, will result in a $90 million loss

When the House of Representatives convened on August 16, 2019, the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow declared that $90 million dollars would be written off in cases where landowners had fallen behind with their land tax payments to the Department of Lands. In speaking with Kerry Belisle, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources, we learnt that this is actually a write-down and not a write-off.  It is still a ninety million dollar loss, either way, for the public coffers.  Here is how CEO Belisle explained it.
Kerry Belisle, CEO, Ministry of Natural Resources: “What it does is it allows us to have the opportunity to give anybody who now owes arrears to the government to benefit if they come in and make good on the arrears, to have the interest portion of the obligation that they had relieved. Secondly, if someone comes in and we can determine clearly and come to an agreement what their arrears status is, they are eligible for a 25% discount on the arrears that was owed. There would be no write off of a tax obligation except in the instance that somebody comes in and pays in, and what we are saying is that once somebody comes and makes settlement their arrears position that they are eligible during the  six months period to have 25% of that tax arrears waived. The vast majority of the land account owners who would have benefited from it, and I’d say upwards of about 80% of it would be taxpayers who are perhaps somewhere within the $2,000 – $3,000 limit so that the reach and coverage of the program is extensive across the country but it really also serves as an opportunity for people who may have had long-standing arrears with the government to come in and make sure the records are correct and where they are correct that they are able to benefit within the six month period.”
Belisle explained that there is a twenty five percent discount that land owners can capitalize on.
Kerry Belisle, CEO, Ministry of Natural Resources: “We had initially envisioned the program to start at midyear which would have been about June but we have to, of course, wait for the legislation to be passed and so once the legislation is passed the Ministry will certainly then embark on a campaign to ensure that all people, all persons are aware of the start of the program but we are certainly prepared to start once the legislation comes into force. In short it really is , if you may, extending an olive branch to those taxpayers who for whatever reasons were unable to make good on their obligation with a view that the interest portion of that obligation would be relieved and there is a 25% reduction on the principal if they come in and take advantage of the program.”
Belisle added after the specified six months has lapsed, the Ministry will launch a robust campaign to collect from individuals who failed to take advantage of the program.