Property Tax Bill should have been discussed with the Local Government: Local Leaders

With the Property Tax Bill under deliberation, the local leaders believe the Bill should have been discussed at the grassroot level as the highest impact will be felt by the low income group of people, in terms of financial burden and rental increase.

The Bhutanese talked with some of the local leaders that shared their opinions on how the Bill should have come from the Local Government (LG) level.

One of the Gups of Samtse said, “Collection of money is dealt by the Local Governments (LGs) and sometimes our people are not even able to pay a simple Nu 50. How will they pay such a high increase of taxes?”

“If it is in the Thimphu or other urban areas, I understand, as they have a consistent source of income, but here in the rural areas, people don’t have a concrete source of income. We have troubles in terms of income generation and many people’s livelihood is not sustainable. If the government thought of discussing it with the people, it would have been great because this impact, the financial brunt, will be faced by the people, not the government,” he added.

Other Gups from the Trashigang, Zhemgang and Samtse also shared similar views stating that the financial brunt on people will be very high and people won’t be able to pay it.

“In Khaling, Trashigang, most lands are barren and those that are used for agriculture purposes are also destroyed by the wildlife. There are people that are barely surviving on these lands and the government needs to understand this situation. This Bill should have been discussed with the LGs as the impact felt will be very burdensome “ shared the Gup from Khaling.

A Gup from the Ngangla Gewog  shared, “Tax deliberation to increase and decrease is quite easy, but the problem is implementation at the grassroot level. The ground reality of the Acts passed is highly felt in terms of money collection or other miscellaneous things in the LG. I feel that whenever government has deliberations, it would be better if it is discussed with the LGs because the impact is felt by the citizens, not the policymakers.”

However, one of the Gups from Paro shared his views stating it is a fair revision. “The tax has not been revised for the last 30 or so years, and I believe this revision is a good thing. Although there have been some complaints, many believe it to be a fair revision. It is high time we pay, as the value of land has increased and the rich will be paying more tax, which I find  to be fair enough.”

Speaking to the farmers in villages, they expressed their shock regarding the property tax, questioning the increase.  A farmer said, “In the village, we don’t have a concrete source of income, but with increases in taxes, the expenditure in the rural areas will become very high.”

She also added the financial burden faced might eventually lead to rural-urban migration. “The farming culture in the country is subsistence farming, for self-consumption and with limited income, the financial burden on us will be very high. Those in the village might also come to urban areas for better opportunities if the burden becomes too high.”

The impact of Property Tax Bill will not only be felt at rural areas or villages, it will also be felt at urban areas in terms of rental increase.

According to Tandin, a newly employed youth, the Property Tax Bill, if passed, will hamper the livelihoods of many people. “Here, with the property tax is the question of survival and sustainability. There are so many Karma Dechens in Thimphu, with almost 50 percent of them having an income of less than Nu 20,000. The owners will obviously share the burden of the tax, and increase the rent and those who belong to the low income group will be highly effected.”

“The situation in Thimphu is that people are facing housing crunch, and now, the chances of rent getting raised is 100 percent likely. There are already people sharing houses for sustainability issues, and the situation will worsen. I feel that the gap between rich and poor will be widened, and the impact on low income group, essentially youth who are newly employed will be affected,” he added.

“The impact will be on the tenets, it is certain. Even if the rent increases, people won’t be moving out of their rented/leased houses as people, especially in the urban areas, are facing housing crises. With high rents will mean less purchasing power, and low living standard which will ultimately impact the economy. The reality of this property tax will be sustainability of low income and middle income group which will create a gap between rich and poor,” shared a recent graduate who is currently looking for employment.

“The Bill is state before society at the expense of people’s social lives. When the Bill is passed, we will see the direct brunt on people, but even in the long run, I believe that the implications will worsen,” he added.

With high increases in Property Tax Bill, it is important to note that the owner shall not increase the rent before two years from the day on which a tenant occupies the house, and the increment of rent shall not exceed 10 percent of the monthly rent, according to the Tenancy Act of Bhutan 2015, Section 25 and 26.

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