Skip to content
Search

News & opinion

7 NOV 2019

The Bahamas sets path for modernization of tax system

Amie Silverwood

Amie Silverwood

Content Manager - Communications and Media

Toronto, Canada

RICS

The Bahamas is ushering in a transformation to its data collection for property tax purposes for more fair and timely assessments based on quantifiable and objective criteria, the Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas, K. Peter Turnquest told attendees at the Eighth Annual Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference hosted by RICS and IPTI last week.

The conference brought together over 135 qualified professionals who work in the built environment to discuss innovations, challenges and share experience among those in attendance. It was held in Nassau, on New Providence Island, an island that escaped major damage during the recent Hurricane Dorian.

Turnquest thanked RICS and IPTI for hosting the event in The Bahamas this year. "Our northern islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama survived the strongest hurricane to strike the Bahamas since records began in 1851. Dorian was the second strongest hurricane to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. Naturally, these islands are on the slow road to recovery, but we have 14 other islands that are still open for business, including Nassau/Paradise Island, where we gather today. It is important that the engines of our tourism economy continue to turn, and destination events like this provide us with a welcomed boost," he said.

The Caribbean Valuation and Construction Conference brings international delegates and thought leaders together to discuss the unique challenges for qualified professionals working in the Caribbean and the impact of global issues like climate change, market complexities and industry trends. The host country changes each year and it was by chance that it was hosted in the Bahamas this year. RICS considered relocating the event when the hurricane struck but in consultations with officials learned of the importance of supporting the region through tourism.

Bahamas palm trees
The Bahamas is undergoing a Tax Modernization Project which will see an increase in annual revenue, as well as a reduction in revenue leakage through a tighter system

"It was an honor to have Deputy Prime Minister Turnquest address the delegates at our 8th Annual Caribbean Conference and the first instance in the Bahamas," said Neil Shah, Managing Director of RICS in the Americas. "We're proud to support him in his focus on rebuilding the country after Hurricane Dorian by ensuring RICS professionals who work in the region adhere to global best practices though our holistic suite of international standards. In building our relationship, we will support the Deputy Prime Minister in his efforts to build sustainable, resilient communities through the education of professionals and the implementation of these standards."

Thousands of homes, businesses and publicly owned buildings were destroyed or damaged during the hurricane and the task of rebuilding will rely on qualified professionals from the establishment of land tenure, valuation, construction and management of the built environment. The conference offered an opportunity for those involved in these tasks to come together to discuss the challenges ahead.

"This is a very important conference that allows RICS to engage with market players from both developed and developing economies regarding the impact international standards (supported by RICS) can have in building trust and transparency in the built and natural environment," said Ben Elder, RICS International Director for Valuation. "In the valuation space, many of the challenges they face are similar to those faced in other geographical areas. RICS helps to bring solutions to technical problems along with our conference partners IPTI."

Tax modernization in the Bahamas

During his keynote, the Deputy Prime Minister highlighted his work on the Real Property Tax Modernization Project that is currently underway in the Bahamas in an effort to build a fair property tax system. The tax system in the Bahamas is behind other nations and this project is meant to revamp the system – starting with a data collection initiative to update the real property register.

Property taxes in the Bahamas are pegged to generate $131 million (or six percent in annual revenue) for the fiscal year. Strengthening the tax system is anticipated to add an estimated $21 million in annual revenues, with an expected increase in the property tax roll by about 30 percent.

"At the end of the day, the transformation we are ushering in will allow us to have more fair and timely assessments, using quantifiable and objective criteria. We will finally be able to establish boundaries that group homogenous parcels together for the purpose of valuing like properties equitably."

K. Peter Turnquest
Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas

"At the end of the day, the transformation we are ushering in will allow us to have more fair and timely assessments, using quantifiable and objective criteria. We will finally be able to establish boundaries that group homogenous parcels together for the purpose of valuing like properties equitably."

Turnquest also noted the modernization as an opportunity to reduce the amount of revenue leakage caused by a system with inaccurate data. "It is difficult to arrive at a more accurate and fair valuation system if your data is not fully computerized," he noted. "Or if your systems pay little or no consideration to market information - if the values on record are based on decades-old market information."

Once the system has been updated, the region will rely on automated valuations to build more transparency into the system. In property tax and other areas of the government, the Bahamas has committed to modernizing and digitizing data.

"This is the big push in the region, not only with tax administration, but across government, because we all recognize that our sustainable development is dependent on the transformation of our bureaucracies into modern institutions," he said.

Turnquest said the Bahamas are on an aggressive path forward on their journey to modernization to facilitate business development and ease frustrations around the property tax system. "We are working to keep pace with the private sector in promoting and enforcing the highest international standards," he said.

The conference was held on October 31 and November first and was attended by over 135 qualified professionals from the Caribbean and abroad. It will return next year for its ninth iteration in a different island nation.

Amie Silverwood

Amie Silverwood

Content Manager - Communications and Media

Toronto, Canada

RICS

Amie Silverwood is the Content Manager – Communications and Media for RICS in the Americas.

Read more from Amie