Mar 25 2010 16:44
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Mar 25 2010 16:44
A proposed change to the Municipal Property Rates Act will exempt all those who fall below the lowest income tax threshold from paying rates.
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cape Town - A proposed change to the Municipal Property Rates Act will exempt all those who fall below the lowest income tax threshold from paying rates, Cooperative Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka said on Thursday.
The minister told a media briefing that the decision to exempt the poor could no longer be left up to the discretion of municipalities, as this had often failed to provide fair relief.
Shiceka said the law amendment would use "the income tax threshold as determined by the minister of finance every year" in his budget to exclude poor households from rates.
"It is fundamental that we cushion the poor from the devastation of the economic meltdown.
"What it means in essence is that people who are poor, whether in urban areas or rural areas, must enjoy the non-payment of this tax in the form of property.
"When the minister of finance announces people who won't pay tax in terms of the tax bracket, that must go to these people also wherever they are."
It was too early, the minister said, to give an estimate of the total amount of rate relief the law change would bring.
Shiceka said the law would be overhauled in various ways to ensure a more equitable system of property tax, and would be accompanied by concerted efforts to help municipalities overcome a shortfall of funds of some R56bn that has accumulated since 1995.
Amendments would include introducing measures to ensure that municipalities do not exploit those who do pay through excessive rates.
Provinces will be given an oversight role to rein in municipalities in this regard.
"If you feel your property is not valued properly, you must be given a platform to object to that and the objections must be taken seriously. We must monitor whether objections are being processed fairly and properly.
"We believe these measures will go a long way to ensure that our taxes on properties are fair."
Shiceka signalled that he intended to take firm action against property owners who refuse to pay rates, be they in leafy areas or townships.
He acknowledged that those who evaded rates often had genuine grievances but said their actions were as unlawful as launching violent service delivery protests.
"These are the same as the protests in the townships - they take different forms; these are using their money, the others are burning their tyres.
"The one is more sophisticated, the other more violent. We believe none of these activities are acceptable."
The minister said he would on Monday start holding a series of meetings with ratepayers' associations to hear their concerns. "I believe that we will find solutions. If that does not work, the law must take its course. I'm building legal capacity in the department to be able to take anybody head-on, irrespective of who they are," he warned.