The present system of assessment and taxation was established in 1967 with the passing of the Land Valuation and Tax Act 1967 (the Act). The Act sets out the functions, powers and authority for the Land Valuation Department to carry out its mandate of maintaining a Valuation List for Bermuda on which property taxes can be assessed.
The Land Valuation Appeal Tribunal (the Tribunal) is established under the Act to carry out the following main functions:
• Consider objections to the Draft Valuation List;
• Review and confirm each Draft Valuation List;
• Hear appeals against proposed amendments to the confirmed Valuation List.
Appeals to the Tribunal and the Supreme Court and the hearings are governed by the Land Valuation and Tax (Objection and Appeals) Rules 1967 (the Rules).
The panel of members of the Tribunal shall not be less than five or more than nine persons appointed by the Governor and shall hold office during the Governor’s pleasure. The Chairman of the Tribunal is appointed in the same manner and is required to be a lawyer/attorney/solicitor as the Chairman determines all questions of law.
The panel members come from a cross section of the community ranging from lawyers, property and business professionals and anyone interested in serving on the Tribunal. Panel members are appointed on a yearly basis.
In the 2014 Throne Speech, Government announced that in its commitment to make Government more open, transparent and accountable, the Government will strengthen public engagement in its decision-making process. Members of the public soon will be invited to serve on one or more of the 100 statutory and advisory boards and committees that support the Ministries. The process will be now opened to the general public, with access to the Government website where they can complete an application to join a Board or Committee that interests them. This change will enable greater participation and enlarge the pool of qualified persons to assist Government in its deliberations.
When convened for an objection hearing, the Tribunal consists of a Chairman and two other members selected by the Chairman form the panel of members. If any member called to serve on a Tribunal has any reason to suppose that he may be conflicted or disqualified on any grounds, he should advise the Chairman immediately.
The Tribunal shall consider objections to the draft valuation list (the DVL), the proposals of the Director of Land Valuation (the Director) for the amendment of the DVL and the objections to such proposals. The Tribunal may accept or reject such objections or proposals in whole or in part and subject to such modifications as it sees fit. The Tribunal then directs the Director to make any necessary amendments to the draft valuation list.
No earlier than six months, but not later than seven months after the date of notice of deposit of the DVL, the Chairman shall confirm the DVL as amended. the Chairman shall confirm the DVL as amended.
In considering objections and proposals by the Director, the Tribunal shall have regard to:-
a) annual rental values in the DVL concerned; and
b) the object of ensuring that the annual rental values in the DVL are fair one with another.
Subject to section 7(2A), the Tribunal may also have regard to evidence of the market rental value of a valuation unit (i.e. evidence of the rent which the owner has received (or might reasonably expect to receive) for the tenancy of the valuation unit), but only evidence that was current on or about the valuation date .
In considering objections to proposals to amend a valuation list (once the draft valuation list is confirmed), the Tribunal shall have regard to:
a) annual rental values in the valuation list concerned; and
b) the object of ensuring that the annual rental values in the valuation list are fair one with another; and
The Tribunal shall not have regard to evidence of the market rental value of a valuation unit.
The Tribunal shall hear objections and proposals in public in accordance with rules and, subject to such rules and the provisions of the Act, may regulate its own procedure.
The Tribunal may consider more than one objection or proposal or a combination of both at one and same time where, in the opinion of the Tribunal, such objections and proposals raise substantially similar points for determination by the Tribunal or may for any other good sufficient reason be conveniently considered together.
At any hearing of an objection or proposal by the Tribunal, the Director, the objector and any other person who is the owner of the land affected by the objection or proposal or whom in the opinion of the Tribunal, should be given an opportunity to be heard, shall be entitled to appear before the Tribunal in person or by his duly authorised representative and, subject to sections 7(2A) and 20(3B)(b), to produce evidence and to make representations relating to the objection or proposal.
The Tribunal may be differently constituted for the hearing of objections or proposals from time to time at the discretions of the Chairman.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, where in the course of determining any objection or proposal, one of the members of the Tribunal is unable to continue to act as a member for any reason, then, if all parties concerned agree, the Tribunal may proceed with the determination of that objection or proposal in the absence of that member and shall be deemed to be duly constituted in so doing.
The Director shall be a party to all proceedings before the Tribunal.
A party to the proceedings before the Tribunal aggrieved by the decision of the Tribunal may appeal to the Supreme Court against that decision within twenty-one days (or such longer period as the Supreme Court may in any particular case for good cause allow) after the Tribunal delivers its decision, by lodging a notice of objection with the Tribunal.
No appeal to the Supreme Court under this section shall lie except upon a ground of appeal involving a question of law alone or upon a ground involving a question of mixed law and fact.
Upon hearing any appeal under this Part, the Supreme Court may make such order, including an order for costs, as it thinks just.
Onus of Proof (Section 61 of the Act)
In any proceedings under this Act before the Tribunal or any court the onus of proving:
(a) that any entry in a draft valuation list or valuation list is incorrect; or that any such document is incomplete; or
(b) that any proposal of the Director for the amendment of a draft valuation list, or valuation list, should not be confirmed; or
(c) that any demand note is incorrect in a material particular;
shall be on the person so contending.
Notwithstanding the provisions relating to the onus of proof, in any proceedings before the Tribunal, the Tribunal may, at the request of any party to such proceedings, require the Director to disclose before the Tribunal the basis of his valuation of the annual rental value of the valuation unit which is the subject matter of such proceedings as a condition precedent to the discharge by any party of that onus.
Evidence in the form of Statutory Returns (Section 66 of the Act)
In any proceedings under this Act before the Tribunal or any court, any document purporting to be a return made to the Director pursuant to Section 7 of the Act shall be receivable in evidence for the purpose of demonstrating the rents payable for and other particulars in respect of the valuation unit to which the return purports to relate, at the time when the return purports to have been made.
The Governor may appoint a clerk and other servants to the Tribunal to perform such functions as the Chairman may determine on such terms and conditions as the Minister may, out of moneys appropriated by the Legislature therefore, determine. Any act or decision of the Tribunal or the Chairman may be signified under the hand of the clerk, provided that it shall not be competent for the clerk to confirm a DVL.
Without prejudice to the provisions of any rules relating to the making and disposal of deposits, no costs shall be payable in respect of proceedings before the Tribunal by any party thereto; and all references in this Act to an order for costs shall relate only to costs before a court.
The cost of taking a case to the Land Valuation appeal Tribunal is $600 effective 1 April 2018. There is no cost associated with objecting to the Draft Valuation List or objecting to a Proposal. The $600 fee is only payable when no agreement can be met after a period of negotiation and the matter has to be dealt with and heard by the Tribunal. This fee is payable in advance of the Hearing.