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Only those who deserve it should get land tax relief, says Business Senator

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belize national assembly

Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2020. 3:20 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Senator for the Business Community, Mark Lizarraga, warned during the debate of the Land Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that only those who are most deserving of it should benefit from the new power of the Minister of Natural Resources to remit all or part of their land taxes.

The Senator said that while he obviously supports those who were blighted by drought, hurricanes, or COVID-19 getting relief, those who speculate on land and especially large landowners keep getting relief without obvious benefits.

The Ministry offered amnesty to landowners in 2018 and has been keeping after owners to come in and negotiate payments.

The Ministry has the power to take back non-productive lands being held by larger owners and put it to use, Lizarraga said; “we need every square inch of this land to become productive, either through paying taxes or in agriculture, and if you can’t develop it, then give it back…”

But the Ministry and Government need revenue in this time, he concluded.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said the amendment does not give the Minister carte blanche to remit taxes; the clause outlines that only those circumstances and anything related to those circumstances applies, and the Minister must justify that decision in light of the law.

Applicants, in turn, must justify that their circumstances led to their current situation, similar to COVID relief, Peyrefitte said. Successful applicants will be published in the Government Gazette, including their specific rates and terms.

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