Features — 11 January 2013 — by Miriam Longsworth

For many city residents, having a vehicle for personal use is more of necessity than a commodity. Many people commute on a daily basis, whether for work or school, so having their vehicle licensed is a must in order to carry out their daily activities.

There is no dispute on the importance of keeping up-to-date on property tax payments as well. But now, the Belize City Council has decided to link property tax and vehicle licensing.

The Belize City Council has decided that persons in arrears for property tax will be prohibited from licensing their motor vehicles until their tax payment has been made. Amandala spoke to several Belize City residents who said that they have been turned away and were not allowed to renew their vehicle license until they have made full payment of their property tax arrears. Those persons claimed that they were not aware of that policy before, and that it is an unfair policy, and probably illegal, because property tax and vehicle licenses are two different things.

Amandala spoke to Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley, who said that the policy came about as a result of the Council linking all of their systems by computer networks.

“We are moving in a direction of linking traffic with property tax, and with liquor and trade and our building permits,” he said. “If you try and get a vehicle license, the system will pull up if you owe property tax, trade license, or any other tax, and it will prohibit you being issued your license until that bill is cleared.”

Mayor Bradley said that there are no exceptions, and that the policy will apply to everyone.

“The policy is simple, you cannot procure a service from the City Council unless you are up to date with all your fees,” he said. “And the reason we have done that is because it costs the city to provide the service. It costs us a lot to keep in place a traffic management system, and it’s not a system we make any profit from.”

Bradley said that the issuing of a license costs the city, as the Belize City licenses are laminated and include special features that cost them a certain amount to secure.

“We use our property tax and trade license monies to subsidize that,” he said. “We will only provide that service if you pay your taxes.”

For the record, however, we note that both driver’s licenses and vehicle licenses must be paid for by the person acquiring the licenses. Driver’s licenses are $40 per year, and vehicle licenses can run in the hundreds of dollars.

Not licensing their vehicles will mean that drivers will either seek alternate modes of transportation, or risk driving around with an expired license. Bradley said that if drivers choose to operate their vehicles without a valid license, they will have to face the consequences of that decision.

“You run the risk of getting into an accident, in which case your insurance company will not cover you, or if you run the risk of being stopped and you get a traffic ticket, so all of those things are on the table,” he said.

“But essentially what we’re saying is that you have to be up-to-date. It’s every citizen’s responsibility to pay their taxes, and if you don’t pay your tax, how can you expect the city to run?”

Amandala asked the Mayor whether linking tax arrears and vehicle licensing was legal, and his response to that was, “Well we’re doing it.” The Mayor said that if anyone has an issue with the policy, they have the right to dispute it.

“This is why the courts are there, so if anybody has a problem with anything that we do, we live in a democratic open society,” he said. “Let them take it to court and we’ll have our lawyers defend it.”

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