Lawyer seeks details on officials dodging duty

| 10/06/2016 | 84 Comments
Cayman News Service

Peter Polack

(CNS): A local attorney on a mission to seek out and expose senior law enforcement officials who are not meeting their obligations under the law stepped up the pressure this week with a very specific request. Peter Polack has asked the Lands and Survey Department if Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, who owns a number of condos that are leased to tenants, and former police commissioner David Baines, who entered into a number of rental agreements during his time here, ever registered any of those leases for duty.

Officials at lands and survey have admitted that they are struggling to collect stamp duty on rental leases because of the ad hoc nature of the market and the transient nature of tenants.

After a report was released showing that government coffers are missing millions of dollars every year because this tax is not enforced, a release from the planning ministry said lands and survey was attempting to collect the missing cash. However, liability for the tax remains unclear, with some believing the landlord should pay while others say the already unprotected tenants should foot the bill.

Polack told CNS that the legislation is unclear but what is clear is that the responsibility to pay should be with the landlord as the registration of leases gives them legal protection and they are the ones collecting the payments from tenants. But he said the situation at present has everything to do with selective prosecution and the wealthy property owners have little to fear.

“They need not worry as their interests are well protected in the upper reaches of government,” he said. “The lines of public assistance grow longer as the man in the street realises there is one rule for them and one rule for us. There is no greater threat to our system of justice than the continuing trend of selective prosecution.”

Polack plans to name and shame the wealthy property owners across the island who own massive amounts of leased apartments and, he believes, should be paying the rental stamp duty. He has started by asking about government officials.

He has asked how many tenancies have existed in regard to David Baines, how much stamp duty was paid and whether the department continues to pursue the collection of the duty if it hasn’t been paid. He is also asking about the condos owned by Bulgin and whether leases for his properties are being registered and taxed.

Polack said that as law enforcement officials, both the former commissioner and the attorney general should publicly answer these questions. “If they have paid the duty then that’s an end to the matter,” he told CNS. “But if they have not, the public deserves an explanation.”

Polack said that there must be a way of holding officials publicly accountable when allegations like this are made. Every year the authorities prosecute thousands of people but at present these senior civil servants have not answered to the people about whether they are meeting their own obligations under the law, he said. Polack has also made it clear that the government has a duty to answer the enquiry directly and not treat this as a freedom of information request.

He is also asking the supervisor of elections to consider implementing a requirement that all candidates for the next election provide a declaration of compliance with the Stamp Duty Law in respect of any unregistered tenancies in which they have or had a direct or indirect interest. He also suggests that all senior officers of the RCIPS should provide a declaration of compliance with the Stamp Duty Law in respect of any unregistered leases in which they have or had a direct or indirect interest prior to receiving any further salary payments.

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Category: Local News

Comments (84)

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  1. Katina Masura Anglin says:

    Well done, Peter.

    Regardless of the outcome – realising who and what you are up against – you have made your stand against corruption and oppression.

    Hopefully, this procures a FAIR outcome, Justice prevailing.

    I thank you profusely.

    Katina Masura Anglin

  2. Knot S Smart says:

    I liked Peter better when he was painting those old pallets red and calling it works-of-art…

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s a stupid law and it should be repealed. Rent is already too high and the property market already too stagnant to introduce another tax. Stamp duty on the purchase and ludicrous CIREBA fees on the sale erode any capital gains, don’t tax the rental income as well.

    I admire what Peter is doing to stamp out corruption but I’d prefer to see him focus on some bigger potential scandals, like the police station break in or the turtle farm or some (all) of McKeeva’s deals or JOCC’s spending in the Brac or a certain former minister of sports connections with CIFA and FIFA or the goings on a CINICO and HSA or the duty waivers process or the NBF scandal….to name just a few.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Re write the law. My personal opinion here is that if I’m struggling to make payments and decided to rent out my place, that’s no business of the government. I’m now sharing with family and until I get my feet back together, someone else is assisting me to make my mortgage payments.

    This means, I keep my house and I’m not asking for government assistance. Think this through a bit more. I know that the commercial private home landlords of 10 or more potentially should pay. But even then, it makes this property/income tax which the Cayman Islands doesn’t have….

  5. Anonymous says:

    I suggest illegal listening devices be legalised and then taxed. But then who would be liable to pay the tax, Peter, the listener or the listenee?

  6. Soldier Crab says:

    The information Mr Polack seeks is not a matter of public record, nor should it be. IF any civil servant releases such details they will be liable for dismissal.
    Nobody’s tax affairs are open to public scrutiny.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nonsense. It is all in publicly accessible “parcel files” at the Land Registry.

      Pollack has not initiated a FOI. He is conducting a search of public records.

      • Anonymous says:

        So transfer all property to a holding company and change ownership from the company level.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nope. Try again. Still have to file ownership change returns under the Land Holding Companies (Share Transfer) Tax Law.

    • Anonymous says:

      We have a registered land system.

      All transactions involving local land are a matter of public record.

      Failure to register leases is an offence, although apparently unknown to most. But presumably the AG and COP are aware of their legal responsibilities.

  7. Charles says:

    They should tax all of these sporting associations and so call non profits associations too. I find it incomprehensible that they would tax this portion of the community considering there are elderly caymanians that depend on rent to live. Yet these associations like CIFA gets grants from government and not one penny in taxes is ever paid. Look around and see who’s in the big fancy bmw, Mercedes, etc….what a farce!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    By his logic, if you sell land you should be responsible for the stamp duty?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Selective enforcement of rules is a cancerous form of corruption within government and its authorities exercised daily. It has always been who you know and who is popular, and who you connected with in my experience.

  10. Anonymous says:

    People are losing jobs as the financial services industry shrinks and all they have left is the little income they get from renting a portion of their house. Now you are enforcing that these middle class who are nearly losing their homes will need to pay more money out that they don’t have.

    Laws are put in place for various reasons. One is to protect the community and the other is to make money for the government. This one is a money making law. However, if the money it receives results in individuals going to social services for the balance they lose from paying the government, then the law is useless.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Peta, I like you but…………………..the irony of what you are trying to do here does not escape me.

    I am a 6 generation Caymanian and this idea that Cayman is “Tax Free” is a myth that I have been living with for the past 58 years.

    I (and everyone else) pay a flat consumption tax of around 30% whenever I consume anything in the Cayman Islands in the form of import duty.

    I pay a 7.5% tax every time I purchase the only thing that is truly made in Cayman, which is land, in the guise of Stamp Duty

    I pay the 7.5% stamp duty tax on top of the 30% charged on materials every time I purchase property with a building of any kind.

    I pay an additional 18% tax (at todays gas prices) every time I fill up my car with gas on top of the business license, work permit fees etc. that Government charges the oil companies (you can bet they pass all fees on to the consumer).

    I and everyone else pay all of the duty and fees that Govt levy on CUC, plus 10% per their license every time I pay my light bill (yes they pass it on to us not their beloved

    I pay a 2% tax every time I insure my house, boat, car and apartments.

    I could go on and on but it is starting to get depressing.

    In whose colonial twisted mind does the word “duty” show up as a more palatable word for “tax” anyway? The dirty little secret about “duty” is that the poorest of the poor pays into the same tax bracket as the richest of the rich.

    I am a landlord that invested in apartments instead of the stock market for my retirement. I take the risk of not having my leases registered knowing full well that I have no recourse through the courts for lot rents.
    If government starts to enforce this provision of the law on residential rentals, I like everyone else will have to take the tax check into Government.
    Having said that, I will not be paying this tax, the tenant will be paying it. I will simply add another line to my lease, just like the insurance companies do, to cover this tax and the tenant will pay it, I will not raise the rent to cover it.

    When will the Government and do gooders like Peter Polack realize that the $million that Government now gets, and wastes, is enough damn money to run a 100 square mile set of 3 islands. It is a stupid tax law, take it off the books already.

    Stop giving away $millions to rich citizens and foreign investors and get off the backs of the disappearing middle class people of this country!
    We do not need your Social Services hand out money if we are allowed to take care of ourselves!



  12. Anonymous says:

    Just st repeal the useless law. This is all a waste of time.

  13. Sharkey says:

    I agree with Peter in his efforts to expose corruption underhanded behavior by the government and civil servants, but I think that not only Peter should take this a step further , and investigate how politicians / civil servants get to own so much in short time on the salary they make .
    I think that until all aspects of corruption is exposed to the public , nothing would change . Keep up the good work Peter, expose and shame because they should be the ones setting the examples of laws .

    Sincerely ,

  14. Cyclops says:

    I have lived in Cayman for forty years and understood that only commercial long term leases paid the tax.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well that’s incorrect. Shows how many people don’t know the laws here.

    • Barry Jones says:

      That is not the case and as you were a resident you should have known the wording of the law and more importantly what laws affected you. The law cleearly states that SD is payable on all leases no matter the length. And I would know as I assessed the duty for 10 yrs.

    • Anonymous says:

      So your understanding of what the law says rather that what it in fact says has prevailed. How typical for Cayman.

  15. Lawless Caymanas says:

    You know, I used to get angry but now I just feel like a complete sucker as I follow the 15mph school zone limit and everyone else just flies by me at twice that speed. And never a cop in sight. Never.

    So many laws. So little enforcement. The story of modern Cayman.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Peter Polack for Commissioner of Police.

  17. Anonymous says:

    First off there is NO Law Enforcement in the Cayman Islands (Yet). There is only crime clean up. Everyone that has been here longer then a week knows laws are really more like suggestions. This will only change when the Law makers (CIG) are ready to set the example. Anyone see that coming soon? Its like the idea that this is a tax free country. The (not a tax) dutys, fees, required on island insurance, required payed to government pension pyramid scheme, etc. is the reason that Cayman has such a high cost of living. In any other country it would be called taxes. This tax on rentals is just another failed tax scheme to get more taxes from expats while not taxing Caymanians. Don’t worry about it though. Caymanian government does not have the ability to enforce anything.

    • Anonymous says:

      at 5.32pm So you are saying that the people who are failing to pay this tax are mostly expats. Who knew. All the while these people are calling Caymanians lawless.Wow.

  18. Anonymous says:

    how do you tax 15 Filipinos in one room in a 3 bed 1 bath home? that equals 45 Filipinos that Immigration has on file living in one home.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s called being sensible and finding ways to reduce expenses, as a Caymanian why are some of you so upset with Filipinos at least they’re not building shacks all over the place or marrying every Caymanian to get status, only their females do that.

      We live in a community that makes billionaires use laws to avoid taxes in their homeland and yet you’re worried about few dollars from Filipinos living in one house?

      let me guess, you’re a Jamaican (or intimidated Caymanain wanting to get benefits in your own country so have to side with Jamaicans) worried about another national getting jobs you want for your people? Because if you were so concerned you’d find more reasons to ask for immigration controls over other nationals.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Polack is one individual I have the highest respect for. He is fearless and always fights for what is right.

  20. Cayguy says:

    …..and they say cayman islands is a tax free jurisdiction. looks like polack just opened a convenient can of worms. property owners get shafted on the huge 7.5 per. stamp duty on purchase of land or property, then the govt slams property owners again with the further 5 per. stamp duty on leases and then say they are helping caymanians. b.s.!

    • Anonymous says:

      Er, you “forgot” to mention that after being “shafted ………..” there is no property tax to pay every year. Are you mad?

    • Anonymous says:

      Hang on….you missing the 2% that they put on your property insurance. The middle class is slowly disappearing…..

      • Anonymous says:

        You have the option to self insure if you do not have a mortgage! So stop blaming govt for your financial affairs.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hear Hear Peter, keep UP the pressure on these pampered pooches. The corruption and cronyism must end.

    It is soooo simple: Enforce the existing laws and everything will improve. Pay your duty, hire qualified locals, jail offenders, fire bad teachers, don’t break the law and remember that “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” C.S.Lewis……

  22. Anonymous says:

    Kind of silly approach but point taken. An assessment should be done as to whether this should be removed from the law given the impact it would have on an already high cost of living. It will not be the landlords that suffer…it will be the same impact as raising duties, this cost will be passed on to the consumer.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Peter how about chasing all the people that owe the HSA? Or, is the massive HSA debt a lost cause because most of the people that owe money also vote?
    Same for garbage collection fees.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Years ago a client company rented to the then COP. The rent was paid by govt, presumably as part of his employment contract, and either the first months rent was paid net of stamp duty for the full term, or it had ro be paid seperately. Be careful renting to senior govt staff!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Many of our egotist MLAs eagerly milk the perceived “perks of office” and expect to be offered the royal red carpet treatment (sometimes literally): be it those that acquire land with government funds, or wager at casinos with government line of credit, to free VIP tickets to charity fundraisers and events, waived baggage allowances and upgrades on Cayman Airways flights, and other grotesque personal indulgences. We even had a megalomaniacal former leader who instructed limo drivers to circle hotels in Florida until the red carpet protocol was unfurled for their pointless arrival. I’ve attended fundraisers where dinner service for 300 was held for over an hour and ruined because the Minister of Ego hadn’t yet made their grand and much delayed entrance. This revolting abuse of office is common. The oath of service (if there is one) is an unhonored disgrace.

    • Dire Straits says:

      Ah politicians. Always looking out for themselves.

      There was a time not too long ago when they even got to waltz through the airport Customs area in their own designated line.

      It’s money for nothing and chicks for free for these rock stars of the Cayman Islands.

      • Anonymous says:

        The member from North Side loves that line. Wheelin’ and spinnin’ ahead of everyone in his own VIP Customs line with four brand new truck tires courtesy of Cayman Airways “protocol” of some sort.

  26. Anonymous says:

    As the responsibility lies with the landlord, why pick on Baines? It is just case of sour grapes and typical of the mentality here. As 10:44 states “why pick on these people” when there will be hundreds of condo owners in similar scenarios. It is a failure of Government not to enforce against the landlords and not the tenants who pay rent in “good faith” even if it is Mr Baines (the most evil man in the world according to Caymanians).

  27. Anonymous says:

    I thought his name was bulging.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Go after the members of the LA, past and present, and you’ll be shocked at what they owe the CIG.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The point Mr. Polack I believe is making, is that the law applies to everyone! No one is above the law. Doesn’t matter what position you hold and how highly regarded you are in society. Given the fact that these two individuals are high ranking law enforcement individuals within government – they should be setting an example to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you know or how many friends you may have – the law is jus that “The Law” and must be abided by all – rich, poor, middle class, Caymanian and expats.

    • Justin Alluzjun says:

      Screw the law. 99% of all laws create misery for decent people.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is correct ! Mr. Pollack is pointing out the selective prosecution which has become all too common. These two individuals represent the essential head of law in the country and represent the interests of the elite, not the common man. If these two are not held accountable, and the DPP falls under the AG, and responds to the work of RCIPS, then it’s imperative they be held accountable. According to them, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Given they write the laws that come into force, there definitely is no excuse.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just seems a bit personal, I’ve no idea if there’s been any disagreements between these lot, but it would have been just as effective to poll the LA for details rather than what has the appearance of a grudge. What’s that thing about it doesn’t only need to be right, but must have the appearance of being right. btw I think this particular law does apply to everyone, everyone is ignoring it!

  30. Anonymous says:

    The responsibility for the payment of Stamp Duty on commercial leases lies with the tenant. Always has done. So why does Mr Polack think that this should be any different for residential tenancies? Or is it that the landlords he has named are easier targets for him than the delinquent tenants…

    • Anonymous says:

      it could be either landlord or tenant paying up, it just depends on if it is an expat,as they always have to pay for services they do not use.

  31. Anonymous says:

    The fish rots from the head. And this island is one rotten carcass of a fish.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Get dem Peter!

    • Anonymous says:

      Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater. This FOI will be quickly shot down since the Samuel Bulgin is not renting the apartments as the Attorney General so how will Government know what he is doing as a private citizen? As usual Peter is running his mouth without thinking it through and knowing the facts.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Everyone renting more than 2 condos has a trade and business license as required by law, right?

  34. iLegal says:

    Aaaaaaaand let the cover up begin.

    Keep it up Peter. Pressure bust pipes!

    • Anonymous says:

      This 5% will simply be passed down to tenants and end up raising the cost of living.

      The status quo has existed quite happily for many years, commercial tenants had to register their leases and were taxed, residential didn’t and so avoided the tax. Now don’t get me wrong, the law states that everyone should register their leases, but it was understood that it was an area that wouldn’t be chased, and so everyone was happy.

      The Government’s own Lands and Survey Dept suggested that this law be changed a number of years ago, but it wasn’t acted upon.

      It seems as though this would be a very nice vote winner for politicians by amending the law so it only applies to commercial leases.

      This is not a case of “one rule for them and one rule for us” the situation currently benefits everyone.

      • Anonymous says:

        No it does not benefit everyone. It places fully law abiding citizens at a disadvantage. It encourages an “if you cannot beat them, join them attitude.” It means that Government does not have enough money to pay for ambulances and school lunches. It fosters the growing perception that Cayman is corrupt, or inept, or both.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Good for you, Peter. I think we all know the answer though…


  36. Anonymous says:

    You mean Mr Bulgin owns condos as well as a big house in Patrick’s Island?

  37. Anonymous says:

    Why pick on these persons ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Why not?

      • Anonymous says:

        Because FOI will not get you answers on private matters. I thought a ‘lawyer’ like Pollack would know that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because THEY should be law abiding “officials” that should be setting GOOD examples for the rest of us. XXXX

      Peter has the right idea. Let’s start with those in higher office, starting with the Attorney General, Cabinet Ministers, and MLAS.

      “What’s good for the geese is good for the gander”

      Thanks, Peter! Your investigations are off on the right track.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Real Estate Industry here claims it polices itself and has resisted any attempt to pass a law to regulate it. Ms Totten as head of CIREBA claims she never heard of this regulation. Where has she been? Further CIREBA requires all sales persons to take a course, and it is strange this is not part of the course.This is the easiest place in the world to “qualify” to sell real estate. A month or less after arriving here as a tourist they are working for one of the firms selling real estate Lands & Survey has every right to collect on the leases, and CIREBA has shown that they don’t know the laws relating to Real Estate here. Amazing! Maybe the firms that lease the properties should also be held accountable.

        • Anonymous says:

          CIREBA does not allow lawyers to be members. Pesky bastards who know what the law is are not welcomed. Ignorance, real or feigned, is just so damn convenient!

      • Anonymous says:

        Every citizen deserves protection. Just because you do not like an individual does not mean they should be tried in the court of public opinion and that is all this wild goose chase is Mr. “What’s good for the geese is good for the gander”
        Sincerely, Goose.

      • Sonia says:

        So only government workers and political persons are corrupt. Why not go after the private sector workers. After all they own the majority of apartments and condos ….

      • Robert says:

        That’s GOOSE not Geese

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