BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications email@example.com
STRATA homeowners are among the country's top property tax delinquents the Jamaica Observer was told last week.
At the same time, a Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) official said that the agency's compliance officers are having a difficult time accessing gated communities in order to do their jobs.
Sharon White, the TAJ's property tax co-ordinator, did not immediately have the total arrears for the more than 1,500 strata properties in Jamaica. However, she informed the Observer that 51 properties had $268 million outstanding.
"The arrears are very big for the gated communities, and you'll find that when you go there, some have security guards, some don't, so sometimes what the compliance officers will do is wait until they see a resident going in and enter at the same time. But remember, they have to get out," White told last week's Observer Monday Exchange.
Giving examples of the difficulties experienced by compliance officers at strata properties, White said some officers are threatened by security guards, while others refuse to give the compliance officers access out of job security fears.
"Some of them (security guards) are quite nice and they will tell them (compliance officers) that they can't allow them to come in as the owners will complain and they will lose their jobs," White explained.
"There was a case where one of the officers went into a complex and he was locked in and he had to wait for a long while until a resident came... he spoke to her and she allowed him out," White said, adding that compliance officers report at least one threat per week.
"There are cases where people set dogs on them," White added.
Asked how the TAJ deals with this situation, White said compliance officers are advised to use their best judgement.
"We still have to work with the taxpayers," she said. "We tell the compliance officers, you are out there so you have to assess the situation."
Compliance officers are required to visit property owners and try to use moral suasion to get them to pay their land taxes.
However, people in arrears for extremely long periods are usually taken to court by the tax authorities.
Last week, White said that more than 2,000 summonses were served monthly.