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Land Tax threat

by Trevor Yearwood

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The Land Tax Department has threatened to auction off 35 private properties – including hotels and other businesses – for non-payment of taxes.A “notice of sale” appearing in the Press has listed Regency Cove Hotels and Allamanda Beach Hotel, both in Hastings, Christ Church, among the properties targeted by the department.Both hotels are scheduled to go under the hammer August 20, with other properties to be sold between August 9 and September 7 – unless payments are made.“There is no reason for Regency Cove to be on that list,” operator of the hotel, Hal Martin, told the DAILY NATION yesterday.“There is a matter in the courts regarding the ownership of the hotel and until that is settled we cannot pay any money.”According to Martin, the court battle started in 1990s, when the Barbados Development Bank (BDB) sought to sell the property to recover monies loaned, and later involved prominent businesswoman Ram Mirchandani.The idea of the Land Tax Department trying to auction off a $12 million property simply to recover an estimated half-million dollars in tax was “utter nonsense”, Martin said.A senior official at Allamanda Beach Hotel said owner and chairman Leif Brandel was out of the island but was expected to deal with the tax issue.Other properties listed in the notice of sale include Sunset Crest, St James apartments owned by Resorts International Limited, land and buildings in Pine Gardens, St Michael, owned by M F Investments Limited, and a similar portfolio belonging to Welchtown Investments Limited, in Welchtown, St Peter.The department’s target list mentions properties in Baxters Road, Country Road, Nelson Street and Roebuck Street, St Michael; in Elizabeth Park, Sheraton Park, Warners, Chancery Lane, Dayrells Road and Harts Gap in Christ Church; and Church Village, St Philip.Efforts to reach Commissioner of Land Tax Wayne Forde yesterday for a comment proved unsuccessful.Notices of sale
But each year the department issues notices of sale to force individuals and companies to clear long-overdue taxes which in recent years have been around the $100 million mark.Forde has said that after the notices are posted clients can still make payments to the department and work out a schedule of payment to clear the debt.Going after the overdue tax dollar has taken on greater significance in recent years, given the troubled state of the Barbados economy.Government has indicated that some of its revenue collection agencies are owed about $700 million. Chartered accountant Douglas Skeete said Government should improve the efficiency of its revenue-gathering agencies rather than think of increasing taxation in an effort to collect more funds.