NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The era of amnesty for people with property tax arrears is over, said Acting Inland Revenue Director Shunda Strachan.
She said people with mortgages and home arrears should start talking to their banks about borrowing money to pay the government.
She said $700 million of the $1 billion in taxes owed to the government are property taxes.
“If you have significant arrears and your property is mortgaged, go see your lender,” she added.
“Talk to your mortgagee because between the two of you, I’m sure they can help you.
“And I say it this way because the department is no longer really able to extend long-term payment plans.
“We are in collection mode. So the year before we had amnesties.
“The last one just ended in September.
“In September of last year we were on amnesty where if you were in arrears you could have gotten 50% off your property tax arrears.
“So all of that is done now and we’re in full collection mode now.”
Strachan said people without mortgaged properties should visit his department.
“In two weeks, we will go fully into collections mode and that means we will be distributing accounts to private collections.
“When accounts go to private collections, that’s yet another fee that you really don’t need and don’t have to pay if you just come and have a chat with us.”
She said that while people who cannot pay their arrears will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, the consequences of not paying high arrears could include having their accounts frozen or wages garnished.
“There are different tools in the legislation that we are allowed to use for arrears,” Strachan said.
“In truth, this was not something we were actively doing in the past, hence the astronomical backlogs. But we want people to know, we have no choice, we have to use the tools of legislation.
Strachan said an expected tax law change will expand the type of properties the government can sell.
She said: ‘The power to sell the property comes down to the government’s ability to sell if you have tax arrears.
“So there is a slight change to section 25 of the Property Tax Act which talks about the power of sale.
“Previously it was all foreign owned properties that were not owner occupied, they came under this section and they could be sold for excessive arrears. Now, these are all properties that are not owner-occupied.