Property Tax Administration in Practice: A Case Study of the Portmore Municipality, Jamaica
Wynter, Carlene Beth
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The objective of this study is to obtain an in-depth understanding of the practical working of property tax administration in Jamaica. It highlights the major enforcement and compliance practices along with how the invisible and underlying interactions of actors in the field shape these practices. It also explores those issues and circumstances along with the existing patterns of interests which have contributed to the continued practice of the central administration of the property tax. The study also emphasizes struggles in the property tax field between the various players: the tax authority, the politicians, the developers, the local authorities, the central government and the taxpayers and how each one uses its capital to maintain or dominate its position within the property tax field. The findings revealed that there were various tensions and struggles among the different players within property tax field in Jamaica. The players in the field used their ‘capitals’ to maintain, dominate and or attempt to make changes to the property tax rules. The findings suggest that some property tax enforcement practices were the means through which these tensions were manifested and resolved or on the other hand, the tax authority attempted to use the current practices as hidden agendas to highlight those tensions in order to stand their ground or obliquely suggest changes or even to demonstrate its tacit support of government policies. The findings also suggest that the non-localization of the property tax may be due to varied political interests, mistrust in the local authorities and also the perception by some players that there’s a lack of capital at the local level to manage the tax. Finally, taxpayers’ used their social, economic and cultural capital to resist enforcement and compliance efforts cheating the government of much needed revenues Property tax although not an important national tax is a critical source of revenue for local communities globally. An increased understanding of the working of the practices is beneficial and has implications for both taxpayers and policymakers. The three research questions posed in my study address and highlight the main property tax enforcement strategies and how the tax authority and policymakers use their capital to shape these practices; the extent to which non-localization of the property tax within the Portmore Municipality is influenced by the political dispositions of the players in the field and thirdly the dimensions of property tax compliance and non-compliance in Jamaica. The questions seek to demonstrate how the combination of the actions and interactions of tax administrators, taxpayers, politicians, developers, government bureaucrats reshape administrative practices in the property tax field which have implications for revenue generation and the provision of services. In keeping with the adoption of an interpretive inductive approach, face-to-face interviews were conducted with tax administrators, policymakers, councillors, mayors, taxpayers, members of civil society, a developer and a tax professional. A theoretical framework is created which combines the major themes and theoretical concepts within three strands of literature: tax administration, fiscal decentralization, and Bourdieu’s theory of practice. The structure provides the explanatory lens through which the findings are presented and interpreted. The study contributes to the tax scholarship through an interpretive methodical approach which gives an additional perspective on property tax administration. It answers the call for well-developed tax research dispelling the notion that tax research is adequately dealt with. This study contributes to the tax literature by demonstrating that taxation isn’t just a technical issue; that the legal framework and administrative framework don’t necessarily coincide with practice; that tax practice is shaped by the actions and interactions of players in the field, making it a social construction; that players use their power to influence property tax practice and that players actions are conditioned by their background. The study also contributes a conceptual framework for property tax practice.
PhD in Accountancy