Property tax law contested

Saturday October 26 2019

estates

A lawyer in Kigali petitioned the Supreme Court to declare null and void four articles in the 2018 law determining sources of revenues on land property. Photo | Cyril NDEGEYA 

KELLY RWAMAPERA
By KELLY RWAMAPERA
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A Kigali lawyer wants the Supreme Court to declare null and void part of the 2018 property tax laws.

Edward Murangwa terms as unconstitutional, article 16, 17, 18 and 20 of the tax law on determining the sources of revenue and property of decentralised entities.

He also challenges the same law for raising taxes by 50 per cent of the plot value on metres exceeding the standard size for a residential house.

“The principles of fair taxation do not allow punishing anyone who has a bigger plot of land with higher taxes. It also amounts to discrimination based on economic status which contravenes the Rwandan constitution,” said Mr Murangwa.

However, the law exempts the 50 per cent tax increase on those who acquired land before 2018 when the law was gazetted, which Mr Murangwa said violates equal protection of citizens provided by the constitution.

“It means people with the same size of land, same location, same market value will continue to pay different taxes as long as this clause stands,” he said.

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The 2018 law stipulates varied taxes on buildings: One per cent of the market value of a residential, 0.5 per cent for commercial building and 0.1 per cent of industrial building.

The articles in contention are 16 which imposes a one per cent tax on residential buildings, and 17 which indicates how that tax is applied and paid progressively on different types of residential buildings.

Article 18 which imposes a tax of up to Rwf300 per square metre on land plots is also in contention as is article 20 which charges “additional tax of 100 per cent to the tax rate referred to in Article 18 of this Law.”

“There is no reason given for taxing more on residential building while commercial and industrial buildings which earn the owners are taxed less,” Mr Murangwa told the court.

On the 100 per cent tax increase on undeveloped plots, Mr Murangwa said it shutters the dreams of the young who after university normally buy land and start saving for developing it in future.

“The clause seals the fate of people’s dreams who develop themselves step by step and this will result into auctioning of thousands of plots whose owners are unable to pay which is against the constitutional equal protection” he argued.

Mr Murangwa cited international and regional feedings into taxation which Rwanda is subscribed to, enlightening where the 2018 law may be going wayward.

The jury of five senior judges led by Chief Justice Prof Sam Rugege and former Ombudsman Aloys Cyanzayire postponed the hearing a fortnight ago, asking for more submissions of the friends of the court.

“This is a complicated case and the court is calling upon others who qualify to be friends of the court in this case to file their submissions to the court” said Prof Sam Rugege.
University of Rwanda School of law were the only friends of the court available but according to the court, “their submission came in late.”

State Attorney Fiat Cyubahiro said “there was no time for them to go through UR’s submission” and asked for the case to be postponed. The case will be heard on November 1.

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