Queries arise on property tax

Monday October 7 2019

Property

There are fears the exercise will not be completed in good time to allow property owners to declare and pay taxes by the December 31 deadline. PHOTO | FILE 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The ongoing property re-registration exercise could derail the collection of tax on decentralised entities this year.

The exercise being carried out by the Rwanda Revenue Authority seeks to build a fresh database of taxpayers as stipulated in the new property law enacted in January this year.

But officials fear the exercise will not be completed in good time to allow property owners to declare and pay taxes by the December 31 deadline.

The new property law adjusts tax rates for immovable properties and introduces punitive tax on undeveloped land parcels and those beyond the standard plot size.

The registration exercise is expected to provide details on which land and immovable properties in the country fall under different taxable categories as well as the rates.

But with an estimated 7.9 million parcels of land initially captured in the country’s land registry database and rising as a result of subdivisions from sales and other transactions, it is difficult to start enforcing taxes, district officials said.

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Executive secretary of Rwamagana District Henry Kakooza said that this is largely because there would be no basis to determine which land parcels are developed.

“Besides, there is a need to identify owners of two or more immovable properties including housing units who must pay taxes on each of them apart from that which they use as their home,” said Mr Kakooza.
He added: “This calls for mass mobilisation given the time left to the December 31 deadline for payment of taxes, otherwise many will not be able to pay and it will be a problem for districts. There is a need to fast-track registration.”

Districts are worried at a time when official figures show that more than 90,000 property owners had turned up for registration in the exercise that kicked off on August 6 in Kigali City, and would be extended to the rest of the country within two months.

Information on the ground indicates that registration for Kigali City property owners will soon conclude before officials embark on the mass mobilisation drive in districts.

Residents and officials in rural districts said that the registration exercise had not kicked off while in other instances property owners were required to travel long distances to meet the Rwanda Revenue staff stationed in selected offices.

Ernest Karasira, RRA’s deputy Commissioner for regions and decentralised taxes department head said they planned to fast-track the registration drive to enable property owners to declare and pay taxes ahead of the December 31 deadline.

“People haven’t turned up in big numbers, but it is something we are working on through mobilisation across different channels. Soon we are embarking on the mass registration upcountry where we intend to deploy additional staff wherever the need arises,” he said.

Mr Karasira said they hope to take the exercise online to boost registration especially among people living abroad.

Meanwhile, property owners must wait for the completion of the exercise before they can check and pay their taxes.

Furthermore, respective districts are yet to come up with revised property tax rates as per the new law, owing to the fact that a ministerial order paving for its implementation was released a few months ago.

Officials who spoke to Rwanda Today said that the advisory councils are expected to meet and decide the rates before the re-registration exercise concludes.

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