Undeveloped Land Owners, Tax Defrauders to Soon be in Hot Water

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The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has begun sensitization campaign around the country, creating awareness about the need for landowners and those defrauding government of taxes to comply.

Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is a newly emerged agency of Government now separated from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and clothed with the responsibility to collect government’s revenue in taxes. It was created by an Act of the Legislature.

At the first awareness meeting in Bentol, Montserrado County yesterday under the theme, “Community Partnership for Revenue Enhancement,” Acting Assistant Commissioner for Real Estate Tax Division, Mrs. Juanita Bropleh, notified the county and local authorities that tax payment is an obligation citizens have to contribute to the development of the country.

Mrs. Bropleh, making presentation, on the implementation method of the community partnership said, “LRA is targeting US$15 million to be collected in revenue for government from real estate tax, and we are going to do a transparent, fair and professional collection of lawful revenue.”

According to the LRA Assistant Commissioner, they are liaising with community members to help them with names of people who own lands so as to give the LRA the clear insight of those from whom to get government taxes.

She told the local people that LRA will work in 150 communities from where members, who are at least high school graduates, will be contracted to identify real estate owners to make it easier for them at LRA to collect government’s tax.

Referencing other African countries including Ghana and Ivory Coast that are reaching peak of development, Mrs. Bropleh said, “We are professionally collecting revenue to build the country, and this is the way other countries are building today.”

She acknowledged that more undeveloped lands are everywhere in the country and the owners do not care to pay their taxes, warning that before anyone can have his/her deed processed with Center for National Document, Record and Archives (CNDRA), County Land Commission or the Probate Court, he/she will have to show tax receipt.

Mrs. Bropleh further warned that refusal to pay tax would lead LRA with the option to cease said properties.  Also, the LRA Commissioner warned the local people not to accept any tax collector to receive bribe from them.

“When any collector comes to you and asks for bribe, just get his/her name and other information and send them to the office, and the proper measure will be taken,” she assured.

The community partnership awareness on January 29, was characterized by questions and concerns.

Beginning the concerns, Montserrado County Superintendent Florence Brandy said, “As you travel along the way, you see vacant lands all over and the owners do not want to pay tax.  Tax payment is essential for development, and if people do not pay tax on land that they own, it must be turned over to government.”

Superintendent Brandy also questioned LRA as to what would be the benefit to people who will be recruited to assist, and the officials said the contractors will have their wages as they perform their duties in line with LRA’s expectation.

Some of the participants emotionally expressed that they pay taxes but government has not cared to give return to taxpayers, noting that it does not encourage them as taxpayers.

Prior to expressing the emotional feelings, one of the participants had prayed, asking God to touch the LRA authorities to reasonably set the tax rate that will allow the common people to pay, which brought laughter that almost disturbed the prayer.

An LRA official, Delaruelle Brumskine-Birch clarified that it is not in the purview of LRA to talk about tax returns but the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning that expends the money collected.

In continuation of the awareness, LRA displayed tax rates of various kinds of properties in line with the revenue code.

Improved land and commercial building pay 1.5% and unimproved urban land (city, town) lot 2%, industrial building 1.5%, and farmland that is not improved pays 5%.

Improved farmland in urban land is charged ⅓% and city/town lots, acre and above 3%, building on public land outside urban areas is charged ¼% and residential building ⅟7% and commercial building 1%.  In rural areas, all lands without building or other improvements pay L$500 per acre.

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