Gov’t pre-empts opposition motion

The Government beat an Opposition member to the punch Friday when it announced it had made an in-principle decision to increase the stamp duty concession for first-time Caymanian property buyers.

Opposition member Rolston Anglin said he submitted three Member’s motions for the meeting of the Legislative Assembly that begins today, one of them suggesting Government make a similar increase in the stamp duty concession.

Mr. Anglin said submitted the motions to the Speaker of the House at the deadline last Monday.

‘I was called by the Business Committee and asked if I was prepared to debate them on Monday (today), and I said I was,’ Mr. Anglin said.

The Government, however, stole some of Mr. Anglin’s thunder by announcing at the Cabinet press briefing that it had decided during an informal discussion of the Cabinet on 24 January 2005 to make the concession.

Currently, Caymanians buying land for the first time are given a concession of not having to pay any stamp duty on the purchase of raw land up to $35,000, or a home up to $150,000.

Mr. Anglin said his motion suggested those figures be increased to $50,000 and $200,000 respectively.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the Government had decided to increase the stamp-duty-free concession to those exact figures.

However, Mr. Tibbetts said the Government would also offer some concessions to those buying higher priced properties. For first-time Caymanian purchasers of raw land between the purchase price of $50,000 and up to $75,000 the stamp duty charged will be two per cent of the purchase price.

The same two per cent rate will also apply to first-time Caymanian purchasers of a dwelling priced between $200,000 and up to $300,000.

For purchases above those limits, the stamp duty will be five per cent of the purchase price.

Another difference between what Mr. Anglin’s motion and what the Government said it had decided was how stamp duty would be calculated on amounts over the duty-free concession.

Mr. Anglin said he intended to suggest for first-time Caymanian buyers to get the entire concession on the first $50,000 or $200,000 of a purchase, regardless of what the actual price was. Under that proposal, if the purchase price of a dwelling was $225,000, then only $25,000 would be subject to the standard five per cent stamp duty rate.

However, under the Government’s plan, the entire $225,000 would be subject to a stamp duty of two per cent of the purchase price.

While there might be some contention as to whose idea the stamp duty concession was, both sides of the political fence seemed to agree it is necessary step.

The stamp duty concession is in place to offer an incentive for Caymanians to own homes.

‘With the current cost of property in the Cayman islands, the concessions are no longer relevant,’ Mr. Anglin said

Mr. Tibbetts said much the same thing, noting that the concessions were last reviewed and updated three years ago.

‘They are simply no longer realistic and two low to be relevant these days,’ he said. ‘It is extremely difficult if not impossible to purchase property at those prices now.’

Since the government had made the decision during a discussion outside of a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Tibbetts said a formal decision would have to be made in Cabinet to authorise the changes.

Mr. Anglin said he was surprised to learn the Government had announced the decision ‘conveniently just three days before I was going to debate the motion in the House, but just slightly different from what the motion suggested.’

Local realtor Sheena Connolly was just glad to hear of the decision, which was something she said was needed during an interview early last month.

Mrs. Connolly said she liked the sliding scale aspect of the concession that the government said it would introduce.

‘It allows purchasers to buy a much better quality product and still take advantage of the concession,’ she said.

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