Former AG supports plan to amend NonCitizens Land Holding Regulation Act

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Justin Simon QC, former attorney general of Antigua and Barbuda, is supportive of government’s plan to amend the Non-Citizens Land Holding Regulation Act to fix a problem which the current administration said is causing the country to lose millions of dollars when land is sold to non-citizens companies.
A fee of $400 is paid by non-citizen companies whose shareholders constitute more that 33 percent of its share capital and acquire real property and non-citizens companies are required to pay 5 percent of the value of the land to be acquired.
However, Melford Nicholas, information minister, told reporters last week that for decades, many non-citizens have found a way to beat the system by using the arrangement set out for local companies, resulting in their paying way less than they are required to.
Nicholas also disclosed that non-citizens are being assisted by local lawyers to circumvent the process, causing the Inland Revenue Department to lose approximately three million dollars annually.
The issue falls under section 19 of the Act which outlines what a non-citizen company should pay: “Where any land situated in Antigua and Barbuda and held by a non-citizen, whether (a) pursuant to a licence issued under section 4; or (b) without a licence, is disposed of by him whether by sale, gift, exchange or otherwise he shall be liable to pay the Commissioner [of Inland Revenue] a land value appreciation tax equal to five percent of the difference between the value of the land at the time he became the owner thereof, together with any subsequent expenditure of a capital nature thereon and the value of the land at the time of disposal.”
In an emailed response on Sunday, the former AG said he agrees that the law should be changed to restrict the granting of such licences only to directors and shareholders whose non-citizen companies do not own land.
He suggested further that it should be a requirement for such companies to obtain a licence before they purchase lands, even if the directors and shareholders hold licences as non-citizens.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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