By Peter Stevenson
HUNDREDS of people queued up yesterday at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to pay their Immovable Property Tax (IPT) or to submit objections to the new estimates given on their property.
The public has up until November 16 to pay their IPT if they want to take advantage of the ten per cent discount on offer.
According to the state broadcaster those eligible to object to the estimate of their property are people who have had their property re-estimated recently.
“When you are not employed and have sick children how can you be expected to pay any tax? Where will I find the money?” one woman that was queuing up yesterday asked.
Lines formed as there was limited staff on duty as the end of August is usually the period most Cypriots go on holiday with many people complaining that they are unable to pay.
“I don’t have any money on me and I’ve been asked to pay €500, I simply can’t pay it,” another woman queuing told television cameras.
But Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos seemed surprised by the reactions especially after the cabinet on Tuesday modified the tax to exempt properties worth €5,000 or less at 1980 values.
“I expected the parties and the taxpaying public to hail the change in taxation following the cabinet meeting,” he said.
Hasikos said officials from the land registry who had been asked to evaluate as many properties as they could as quickly as possible had not managed to finish the work but had done “as many as possible”.
Reports suggested that a total of between 60,000 and 70,000 new homes had been given estimates and that the land registry department hoped that by the start of next year it would have completed the job.
So far this has resulted in a €10 million surplus above the target set by the government to fulfil the troika’s demands. Hasikos said what the state was doing by its decision on Tuesday was effectively giving that money back to the taxpayer.
“Taxation must exist and I know and comprehend that whatever extra charges the public faces will of course make people feel bad but on the other hand we expect health, education, safety and other services, and for our civil servants to be paid so that money needs to come from somewhere,” he said.
“Every one of us needs to contribute to public funds so the state can respond to whatever obligations it has,” Hasikos added.
Opposition AKEL criticised the government’s policies in general, which it said was adversely affecting the lower-income classes but called the latest move to exempt properties worth up to €5,000 as positive.
In one of several decisions taken during the meeting at the presidential retreat in the Troodos mountains on Tuesday, the cabinet also scrapped the minimum amount of €75 for immovable properties worth between €5,000 and €40,000, which will now be taxed at 0.6 per cent on the 1980’s value.
The other brackets remain the same: €40,001 to €120,000, 0.8 per cent; €120,001 to €170,000, 0.9 per cent; €170,001 to €300,000, 1.10 per cent; €300,001 to €500,000, 1.30 per cent; €500,001 to €800,000, 1.50 per cent; €800,001 to €3,000,000, 1.70 per cent; and more than €3,000,000, 1.90 per cent. From next year, the IPT will be based on 2013 values.
The state expects to collect between €105 million and €110 million from the IPT this year.