Building owners call for discussions on tax

National 3 minutes, 13 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BUILDING owners are still unclear and confused with the answers given on issues pertaining to the Commercial Building Tax issues during the fifth session of the Legislative Council (LegCo) meetings and called for more open discussions on the matter during the meetings.

Four members of the LegCo raised questions over why the tax were imposed during the wake of a global financial crisis, the availability of the services under the 12 per cent tax allocation, the payment period extension and the restricted dateline for queries on March 21, 2009. They also questioned on the lack of response by municipal authorities on feed back, particularly on why the issue was not raised with the building owners in the newly gazetted Bandar Seri Begawan area before it was imposed.

Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan, Minister of Home Affairs replied accordingly to the members pertaining to the 12 percent tax allocation and on the payment period but on the other issues, he said that they would be investigated further.

Mokhsin, a building owner and also a legal representative at the LegCo, who did not want to disclose his real name, claimed that issues pertaining to the tax evaluation should be brought up as it was one of the most important issue.

"The (current) tax evaluation, is based on a system where only municipal officers are privy to the evaluation system. The full assessment is based directly on their directive and evaluation without the consent of any third party hence might lead to an unfair justification of our building tax," he said.

He asked why should that be. "The government has always talked about Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Maybe it's time the Municipal Department look into the feasibility of appointing a private tax evaluation firm to ensure a transparent and speedy response towards our assessment," he remarked.

In addition to Mokhsin's call for further inquiry, Mohammad, another building owner who also wishes not to reveal his real name, stated that the current evaluation might hold grounds in breeding corruption practices due to the lack in transparency and also due to the nature of having no third party involved. "Who knows when someone (evaluation officer) might just evaluate us as they wish and ask for money to lower down our (assessment). The evaluation is very important for us as it might affect our business as a whole, so please, have the urgency to look into this matter," he said.

To clear the air over matters that were discussed during the LegCo, a senior municipal officer informed The Brunei Times, that the March 21 deadline applies only to building owners who received their assessment notice earlier this year. "Those who have yet to receive their notices or have just recently received their notices are given 21 days from the day they received the notice to file their disputes or comments on the assessment," he said.

"There are indeed disputes that were already filed in and is currently being assessed, hence the wait. The Municipal department is checking thoroughly to verify the complaints and will update the owners accordingly upon verification," he added.

In regards to the implementation date of the tax, he assured that the Municipal Board has given the building owners in the newly gazetted area ample time to procure any profits as the building tax has long been imposed in the bandar centre.

The municipal officer also reiterated that the payment of the tax can be done twice a year, hence easing the paying capabilities of each building owners in order not to stress their revenue.

In response to the chance of breeding corrupt practices in the current evaluation system, he assured that it will be looked into to ensure the effectiveness of the evaluating process.

The new BSB gazette was implemented in August 2007.

The Brunei Times