Property tax not easy at all for the elderly

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In this file photo from January 30, 2021, Ramhit Narine, 77, calls on authorities for help repairing landslides to protect his home. Some senior homeowners face challenges complying with property tax guidelines. – Photo by Marvin Hamilton

After someone retires from an active job, most employers host a small reception to say goodbye, thank them for their service, help them organize their NIB and other retirement benefits, and, although the relationship officially ends, old contacts sometimes remain to give advice.

None of life’s passages are easy or trouble-free, including retirement. Throughout our working life, and especially when we make our first NIS contribution, we are warned that NIS pensions are not meant to be enough to support you as you age, especially if you intend to live a long life. a very long time, and that you should be planning and saving for post-retirement support.

Plan, save and invest to support yourself and, if you are lucky enough to have some, your loved ones and those in need of help in the community. This is part of what is accepted as the responsibilities of mature adulthood.

It is an important developmental milestone in the lives of human beings and marks a passage psychologically as difficult as going to school for the first time (which a whole generation of TT has now missed), finding or changing. job, or lose one.

Post-employment is as important a transition in a person’s life as their first job is. Most of us need guidance or support to successfully manage these transitions. If we are lucky, we receive this support from family and organizations that are established in a civilized community for this purpose, so that even natural disasters, disease, accidents, floods, fires and nests -potholes on the roads are provided. And some are not. Like covid and inflation. Death and taxes.

With every transition, there are gains and losses.

As I age myself I am more aware of the effect of transitions and sometimes the difficulties they cause, of new systems that are installed, without being asked, in computers overnight, on news. banking regulations that only bank workers know – and not even most of them – to new laws, regulations and, most importantly, taxes.

Many years ago I researched the categories of human rights discrimination in the Caribbean and found that the most extreme discrimination was not racial, religious or even political. , as I had thought. It was discrimination against the elderly.

If the first question someone asks you when you meet is, “What’s your name?” The second is likely to be: “And what are you doing?”

If the answer is: “I am retired”. their interest vanishes as does their conversation, unless it’s a con artist who wants to invest your severance or retirement pay for you “at a much better interest rate than you can get. in a bank or a credit union “. If you haven’t experienced it, don’t rush. You will be.

We watch out for taxis that don’t stop for the elderly, employees who don’t notice them waiting – and we remember the bank banning an elderly woman from using the toilet, forcing her to leave. urinating on herself and on the floor after waiting in line, tears streaming down her cheeks, for over an hour.

Now, in our new normal, thousands of people are without jobs, without income and without potential sources of hope, with nowhere to go for advice on how to deal with the new taxes, rules and regulations.

Some aid formerly granted by companies to retired employees has ceased as the organizations retreat. Departments do not even answer the phone.

A typical example is that of an elderly couple that I have met. The silver-haired woman was 82, her husband 88. He had retired at 65, 23 years ago, with a company pension of $ 1,500 per month which they believed with the NIS, they could live comfortably.

Life became less easy after retirement as costs rose and retirement income did not, but they lived in moderation, saved what they could and had paid off the mortgage on their house sooner.

Property values ​​had risen dramatically in 30 years in what had been but was no longer a semi-rural area, but if they were taxed on a new appraisal they knew they couldn’t afford to pay. more, or pay a lawyer to petition the government for a waiver. They should sell the only house they’ve ever known.

Their only son was killed in a car accident that left their daughter, who lived with them, disabled. She had no one else.

None of them had any computer skills; this had not been required when the husband was working, and email was not common either. They still wrote letters and mailed them by hand, as many people their age do. When they received an official-looking document from the Evaluation Division of the Ministry of Finance, they came to seek advice, as his old company, which previously helped them, had closed.

The Land Tax Law, the precursor to the announced new property tax, lists certain categories that will be exempt from property tax, including “land owned and occupied by the state or its officials” Section 1 (f) (iii) , which I am told can be interpreted as exempting the same officials who drafted the law.

The old man had not been a civil servant, so he was not exempt.

I read the letter and understood why they were upset. If you don’t fill it out adequately and correctly by the end of November of this year, he said, you could be found guilty of a punishable offense and fined $ 5,000. A summary offense is an immediate offense: you do not have to appear before a magistrate.

So I looked at the Land Assessment Act. It is easy to do. Google “Laws of Trinidad and Tobago”, go to the letter “V” for Valuation of Land Act. Hit “enter” and it happens.

I have three college degrees and I couldn’t help them.

My discipline is industrial relations and philosophy, not construction. I understand Kant’s categorical imperative, but the building materials? I’m not good at it.

The information requested includes the composition of your ceilings, in each room – among others, celotex, drywall, gypsum tile, plywood, decorative plywood and grooved plywood.

How am I supposed to know all this? I am not a builder. I’m not sure how to distinguish celotex from drywall, if my flooring is ceramic, porcelain, or “other” whatever it is, and how many square feet there are in each room, or, for the love of God: the measures of
the whole house, inside and outside!

I couldn’t help them.

Why do the people in the Evaluation Division expect people to measure their homes and calculate the square footage in each room? Isn’t assessment what people go to college or technical college to learn? Isn’t that why the government is hiring evaluators? Why are they demanding that the laity do their job for them and threaten if we don’t, or are wrong, they will fined us and
sentenced?

It is “a real and current threat” to many people, not just older retirees who cannot afford legal aid.

Isn’t filling out a form a criminal act in this country? When did things get so cruel to the old or the helpless?

It sounds like Orwell’s Animal Farm, where “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”.

I am trying to find out if there is a Gray Panthers organization that I can join to fight for the rights of the elderly.



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