The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), through its Real Estate Tax Division, has started holding consultative meetings with county and local government officials in Grand Bassa County for the expansion of its real property tax project.
At least 100 local government and county officials have participated in the first rounds of the meetings held on Monday and Tuesday (Nov 21-22) in Buchanan City and Gorblee, Wee Statutory District.
The meetings discussed the decentralization of the LRA Real Property Tax regime with the intent of actualizing a revenue-sharing scheme of real property tax.
Under the project, all revenues collected from real property taxes in Grand Bassa County will be shared between with the Central Government and the county in line with revenue-sharing scheme in the approved in Local Government Act of 2018.
The LRA is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), with support from the Swedish Government, through the UNDP.
Speaking at a formal ceremony on Monday in Buchanan City, LRA Domestic Tax Commissioner Darlingston Y. Talery expressed hope that the project will be a success in Grand Bassa County.
Commissioner Talery disclosed that the project was initially launched in Margibi County. He sid it was making progress in the sister, with at least 11,000 properties already registered and captured in the tax net. The Commissioner disclosed at at least 70,000 properties have been targeted for the Grand Bassa project.
“The taxes collected from the properties in the county will be shared with the county and the county will decide what to do with their share,” Talery told local officials.
He noted that this “is the essence of decentralizing things from Monrovia and deconcentrating the administration of our real property tax administration.”
Grand Basasa Superintendent Janjay Biakpeh welcomed the project and described it as an “important initiative”. Biakpeh said for the first time since Liberia’s independence in 1847, citizens will directly share taxes collected from them with national government.
“All the taxes we used to pay have always gone to Monrovia, but now, we are entering into a partnership with the LRA. Some will stay here; some will go there,” Biakpeh noted.
Biakpeh said when this happens, citizens will, among themselves, decide what development initiative to prioritize to improve their lives.
The consultative meetings were graced by several senior government officials including Deputy MIA Minister for Research and Development Planning Olayee S. Collins, Governance Commission Commissioner George W. Howe and MFDP’s Public Financial Management Specialist Spencer A. Weah. The officials, in separate remarks, underscored the importance of the Real Property Tax project and challenged the local officials to be ambassadors of the initiative in their localities by eliciting the participation their people.
UNDP’s Augustine Zayzay (speaking in Buchanan), Governance Program Analyst Robert Dorliae and Justice and Security Officer Lisa Karlsson in separate remarks (in Gorblee) pledged the UNDP’s unflinching support to the project and urged local county authorities to take the project as their own.
Local officials applauded the LRA for including them into discissions that will affect their lives and wellbeing and pledged their commitments to making the project succeed for the development Liberia.
The Project seeks to bring together partners, stakeholders, as well as owners of properties and taxpayers in understanding what real property tax is, procedures in registering of properties and payment of real property tax.
It will recruit Tax Agents who are residents of Grand Bassa County to carry on the work of the project in the County. The recruited tax agents will sustain awareness and sensitization of real property tax, locate and/or identify new and existing properties to update the real estate database through GIS Technology.