By Orville Williams
Having been forced to make a handful of adjustments in its operations, primarily due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) is urging the owners of property in Antigua and Barbuda to keep up-to-date with their property taxes.
“We’re really trying to emphasise the payment of the property tax, [so] please ensure that if you own a property here in Antigua and Barbuda – even if you’re living abroad – you are required to pay your property tax.”
That call came yesterday from Beulah Buckley, Audit Supervisor for Unincorporated Business Tax (UBT) at the IRD and follows calls from the government in recent months for increased tax collection across the board.
Early last year, the Finance Ministry reported a drop in tax revenue for 2019, while stricter measures were also announced later in the year toward recouping the outstanding taxes and buffering the significant economic losses from the pandemic.
One of the changes the IRD was forced to make in light of the threat posed by the pandemic was to desist delivering tax bills to the property owners.
“Previously, the property tax bills were being delivered to all property owners, but due to the pandemic, [property owners] now have to request their bills…ensure that when you’re making that request, you provide your block and parcel number.
“Some taxpayers still come in and pay cash and they request and receive their property tax bills one time,” Buckley explained.
She added that those people who are not aware of this change in how the bills are acquired, will still be required to settle their bills once they are identified.
“Well, eventually, we will get to those taxpayers that wouldn’t have heard and have not paid their bills…once the property tax division reviews and sees all the outstanding amounts, they will reach out and contact those taxpayers to come in and pay their bills.
“[However] for right now, we have to do it for the safety of the staff – we are not going out and delivering the bills, you have to come in and request the bills.”
Buckley confirmed that the deadline for the payment of property tax bills falls 90 days after a bill is requested. She added too, that, “[property owners can] take advantage of the five percent discount if you pay before your due date, and even pensioners – those over the age of 60 years that own a property – can take advantage of the pensioners’ rebate.”
The other adjustment made by the IRD – in a bid to improve revenue collection and provide customers with greater ease of access – is to allow tax payments including [Antigua and Barbuda State Tax] ABST, Property Tax and UBT to be done online.
Taxpayers can now make their payments through the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) and more recently, the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank (ECAB) platforms. Additionally, payments will soon be possible through the First Caribbean International Bank platform.
Many taxpayers have long been calling for this particular change, complaining of long lines and unnecessary delays when making payments at the IRD. Buckley said since it has been implemented, it has been getting a lot of support from customers.
“We’ve gotten a very good response to this new method of payment. People want that ease of access when doing business – that’s in high demand – so, there has been a great response.
“We check it daily and we see a lot of people responding and doing their payments online, we’ve [also] gotten a lot of wire transfers.
“You still have individuals that want to come and do their cash payments, it’s a habit [and] that’s what they prefer, but we have had an overwhelming response to that new type of payment we’ve introduced.”