Pretoria’s property tax by-laws in focus

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Pretoria - The city’s by-laws on property taxes are unconstitutional and may not be enforced, lobby group AfriForum has said.

The group has vowed to take the municipality to court to force it to develop by-laws that fulfil all legal requirements.

Leandri Streit, regional AfriForum co-ordinator, said the tariff by-laws were written so as to not function independently of the tariff policy. The policy and by-laws on property taxes also made no provision for rebates, she said.

AfriForum wrote to the city council asking that the matter be attended to, but had not had any feedback. “We are now compiling additional information and will approach the court to compel the municipality to attend to the matter,” Streit said.

“Certain steps and processes have to be followed if legislation is to be amended to ensure the interests of the community are protected, but Tshwane is trying to evade this responsibility. Municipal policy is much easier to change with a majority vote at council meetings; a decision may be pushed through without notification.”

In the letter, addressed to city manager Jason Ngobeni, AfriForum said by-laws should all be able to function independently of other policies to be legally enforceable.

“In Tshwane’s Property Rates By-law there are numerous references to the policy to determine certain aspects. Categories of property owners are determined according to the policy as well as the liability for rates,” AfriForum said.

“The Municipal Property Rates Act states that exemptions, rebates and reductions in a municipality’s property rates policy must comply and be implemented in accordance with the national framework.

“A document titled ‘Generic Rates Policy Framework’ was made available during September 2008.

“Comparing Tshwane Property Rates policy with this document, it is clear this framework was not followed. The framework refers to numerous rebates that have to be implemented that do not appear in Tshwane’s policy or by-laws.”

AfriForum suggested the city amend its by-laws to comply with all the requirements. It also asked that rebates – as set out in the framework – be implemented immediately.

Also, that all residents who paid rates unnecessarily be credited for the extra payments they had made.

The group gave the city seven days from April 10 to respond.

Streit said AfriForum would use the Tshwane case to set a precedent so other metropolitan municipalities knew what was expected of them.

Tshwane mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale said AfriForum was simply launching a pad for the opposition’s 2016 campaign aimed at creating a sense of insecurity among affluent communities that continued to receive fairly affordable rates and taxes.

He said AfriForum’s definition of rebates demonstrated a lack of understanding of the broader context of incentives, rebates, poverty relief measures and stimulus for economic and social interventions.

The city believed that current incentives, whether for economic nodes or new residential developments, constituted a new thinking as opposed to simply reducing or discounting rates and taxes, he said.

“The city has no intention of unilaterally amending property rates and taxes. Developing the city budget, including the valuation role, is the most transparent and democratic since the ushering in of the democratic local government.”

Pretoria News

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