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Land Tax/ARV (Annual Rental Value) taken from the Bermuda Government Land Valuation website

 

Introduction
Land Tax is a property tax charged on all developed land throughout Bermuda with some minor exceptions. The expression “land” is used in its broadest sense to include land, buildings and structures attached to land. Undeveloped land is not liable to tax, though developed land that is merely unoccupied is still liable.

Each piece of property that is liable to tax is known as a “valuation unit” and details describing it and its assessed annual rental value (ARV) are entered in the Valuation List. This List is prepared and maintained by the Director of the Land Valuation Department under the authority of the Land Valuation and Tax Act 1967 (Act) as amended. A printed copy of the Valuation List is available for public inspection at the Land Valuation Department.

The Tax Commissioner’s Land Tax Officer calculates the amount of land tax chargeable on all valuation units and demand notes are issued to taxpayers half-yearly. The amount of tax is determined by multiplying the ARV by the appropriate tax rates.

 

Why do we have to pay taxes?
In most communities it has proved beneficial for certain services to be provided by a central body rather than by private individuals either for themselves or for others. The obvious examples of these services are defense, health, education, the emergency services (ambulance, fire and police), public highways, public parks and garbage disposal. To maintain these services, finances must be made available and for such community-wide services, the best method for raising the finances is usually one that involves some community-wide charge or tax.

 

Why a tax on land?
Land taxes are some of the most simple, effective, open and cheapest taxes to administer and collect. In addition, revenues from land taxes are both stable and predictable unlike say import duties or an income tax which can fluctuate widely from year to year. Land taxes are also difficult to evade because the liability attaches to the property itself in the final resort. Property taxes also reflect, in general, some “ability to pay” in so far as people with more resources tend to live in higher value properties and this aspect is further enhanced by Bermuda’s progressive land tax structure. Finally, it is fair to say that community-wide benefits tend to impact to a significant degree on property values so that each taxpayer does receive some benefit from the payment of taxes that go to improve the quality of life and the environment in the community.

 

Who has to pay land tax?
The “owner” of a valuation unit is liable for all land tax charges. This “owner” is usually the freeholder but can also include a life-tenant, a leaseholder for three years or more and even a periodic (yearly or monthly) tenant or licencee in the case of properties owned by the Government, WEDCO, BHC or BLDC. The Land Tax Officer can advise you more fully if you are in doubt about your liability.

Some residential properties and many commercial properties are let on leases for three years or more. The Act deems these tenants to be the “owner” of the valuation unit for land tax purposes regardless of any provision in the lease concerning taxes.

 

As the liability for land tax attaches to the property itself in the event that any “owner” defaults on payment, it is important for landlords and/or prospective purchasers to ensure that all land taxes have been paid.

 

Who may receive relief from land tax?
Relief from land tax may be available in certain circumstances:

 

Bermudians 65 or older are entitled to a special concession on part of or all of the land tax payable on the valuation unit that they occupy and appear as the taxpayer for. Please contact the Land Tax Officer on 297-7537 or 297-7669 for details and eligibility.

 

Circumstances may arise where, through financial hardship, a person is unable to meet his/her tax liability. In such cases, application for relief may be made to the Tax Commissioner who is empowered to defer or provide exemption from all or part of the tax.

 

If for any period of time a valuation unit is incapable of beneficial occupation, in whole or part, in circumstances such as following a severe fire, or as a result of substantial renovations or serious disrepair, the Director of Land Valuation should be advised as soon as possible. He will amend the Valuation List as appropriate for the relevant period. This does not apply to periods of normal maintenance and repair even if substantial enough for the “owner” not to want to occupy or let the property.

 

Some properties are to be included in the Valuation List but with a $0 ARV. These include valuation units owned and occupied by the Bermuda Government, the Corporations of Hamilton and St. George, recognized schools, churches as well as properties owned and occupied by certain charities.

 

When is land tax payable?
The calendar year is divided into two six-month land tax periods, commencing on the 1st January and the 1st July. Tax is levied in respect of both of these periods and demand notes (bills) are sent to taxpayers commencing January and July.

 

You may object to a demand note but only on the grounds that you are not the taxpayer or that the tax has been incorrectly calculated. Your objection must be put in writing to the Tax Commissioner within seven days after the service of the demand note on you. The Tax Commissioner will then consider your objection and inform you of his decision.

 

Who determines the rate of tax?
The rates of tax are proposed by the Minister of Finance and are subject to the approval of the Legislature. For the current amount of land tax that will be levied on your ARV, go to the Tax Payable page of this website.

 

Property within the Corporation of Hamilton municipal boundary is also subject to property taxes levied by the Corporation. The Corporation uses the ARV appearing in the Valuation List on which to assess those taxes.

 

What is the basis of valuation for land tax purposes?
The basis of assessment in Bermuda is annual rental value (ARV). This represents the annual rental value of the property if let unfurnished on the open-market assuming that the tenant pays for internal repairs and the landlord pays for all other expenses necessary to maintain the property. It is exclusive of any amount attributable to land tax itself.

 

This means that the normal market forces of demand and supply are to be taken into account and special circumstances excluded or compensated for, such as an old letting, lettings subject to rent control, to sitting-tenants or to relatives and friends. It is an estimate of the rental value of all properties (whether rented or owner-occupied) that assumes a standard set of hypothetical terms as the basis for each assessment but using actual market evidence as the source for all assessed levels of value. As part of this process of standardization, each property is also assumed to be in good repair having regard to its age, character and the locality it is situated in.

 

How is the ARV Determined?
The Director of Land Valuation obtains, in confidence, details of all rentals from owners or occupiers of property throughout Bermuda for each revaluation. He then analyses these transactions to isolate the value effect of various property characteristics.

 

Using this evidence, he then assesses all properties having due regard to differences for location, property type, quality, size and other advantages or disadvantages associated with each property or groups of properties. The resulting assessment may be higher or lower than actual rents paid for properties if they are not let on the same terms as the statutory basis.

 

The main factors that affect the annual rental value of a property are:

Location:
A property’s location on the Island will have a direct affect on its ARV. To illustrate this point, imagine that there are two identical properties, one located in Tuckers Town and the other located on Parsons Road. The two properties are identical structures in size, quality and amenities. The property in Tuckers Town will have a higher ARV than the property on Parsons Road due to the fact that Tuckers Town is a higher value location than Parsons Road. Hence this is reflected in a higher ARV.

 

Property type:
Different property types have different values. Whether the valuation unit is a house, an apartment, a condominium or a commercial property will influence its rental value and hence its ARV.

 

Size:
One of the main factors on which the ARV is assessed is the size of the unit. For example, a valuation unit which measures 300 sq m (3,220 sq ft approx) will have a substantially higher ARV than a valuation unit which measures 150 sq m (1,600 sq ft approx).

 

Ancillaries:
The ancillary areas of a valuation unit also add to its rental value and therefore affect its ARV. For residential valuation units, ancillaries include such areas as covered verandahs, balconies, patios, garages, basement and external storage areas etc.

 

Amenities:
A property’s amenities will also have an influence on what the ARV will be. Examples of amenities that increase the value of a valuation unit include water frontage, beach access, dock, swimming pools, tennis courts etc. As an example, if there are two identical houses in respect of size, location and quality, but one has a swimming pool and the other does not, the property with the swimming pool will have a higher rental value and hence ARV than the property without the swimming pool.

 

Do I pay a higher land tax if my property is nicely furnished?
In assessing a valuation unit for land tax purposes, all of the physical characteristics of the property that affect its rental value are taken into account. However, in accordance with the Act, we must assume a hypothetical tenancy and in particular that the property is assumed to be unfurnished. Therefore, the furnishings, good or bad, are ignored when assessing the valuation unit

 

When and why are the ARVs revalued?
The Act requires a revaluation of all valuation units on the Island every five years. All properties are revalued at the same time to maintain equity in the Valuation List. Property values change over time and these changes are not uniform across the market. Some property types and areas go up or down in value more than others do. The revaluation “re-levels the playing field” by reflecting these relative changes in value so that the equity of the Valuation List is maintained.

 

As each Valuation List stays in effect for five years, the list is referred to by the year in which it went on deposit. The current Valuation List is therefore referred to as the 2009 Valuation List which is due to be replaced by the 2014 Valuation List.

 

Where do I find the ARV of my property?
Details of each property are entered in the Valuation List and may be found by using the search engine on this web site. To identify your property you will need to know either:

  • Your street name and house number or
  • The Valuation Assessment number.

 

How is the valuation list kept up-to-date?
As existing properties are altered, new properties built or others demolished, the Director of Land Valuation makes changes to the Valuation List. Certificates of use and occupancy permits from the Planning Department, information from owners or occupiers and periodic re-inspections by the Land Valuation Department staff will bring these changes to the Director’s attention.

 

Prior to an inspection, the taxpayer will receive written notification from the Department of the proposed site visit together with the contact details of the member of staff who will be carrying out the inspection. Land Valuation Department staff will have photo identification with them during a site visit and should you have a concern about someone purporting to be from the Department, please call the Department on 297-7964 for confirmation.

 

The staff member will inspect the property and record details necessary for valuation purposes, including measurements of the structures on the property and notes of other factors that affect the value of the unit. The resurvey also provides an opportunity for the Department to update its records and pick up any additional changes which may have taken place at the property since our last site visit.

 

Residential properties are measured on an external basis, however in some instances, internal access to a valuation unit may be required, for example where there are apartments, to establish the division walls between the units. Commercial units are measured on an internal basis and internal access is therefore required during the inspection.

 

Once the onsite data capture is completed, a valuation of each valuation unit at the property is carried out, having regard to the established levels of value in the Valuation List. A notice is then served on the taxpayer of record proposing to alter the Valuation List accordingly.

 

There is a right of objection if you are aggrieved with the reassessment.

 

Can I object to my revised ARV?
You may object to a proposal to amend the valuation list within 31 days of the date of the proposal on one of the specified grounds, namely

  • that the annual rental value of any valuation unit appearing therein is incorrect or unfair having regard to other annual rental values in the Valuation List;
  • that a valuation unit should not have been included in the Valuation List;
  • that a valuation unit omitted from the Valuation List should be included therein;
  • that a valuation unit included in a series or complex of valuation units as a single valuation unit should be listed separately therefrom or omitted therefrom;
  • that a valuation unit listed separately or omitted from the Valuation List should be combined with one or more others of a series or complex of valuation units and listed as a single Valuation List;
  • that the Valuation List is incorrect in some other material particular, and on no other ground.

 

A form for this purpose may be obtained from the Land Valuation Department. You may not object because you consider your new land tax bill is unfair. The tax rates are set by the Minister of Finance, subject to approval by the Legislature. Any concerns regarding such matters should therefore be raised with the Ministry of Finance.

 

Please note that in accordance with section 40 of the Act, you are still liable to pay land tax on the proposed ARV even though there is an outstanding objection to the proposed amendment. Once the objection has been resolved and if there is an alteration to the proposed ARV, your land tax bill will be adjusted accordingly.

 

Should the Director of Land Valuation and the owner be unable to agree the assessment of a valuation unit subject to an objection, then the independent Land Valuation Appeal Tribunal will hear the appeal and make a determination.

 

Can I get a reduction in my assessment if rents are falling and the market rental value of my unit is now less than the assessed ARV?
No, you cannot get a reduction in your assessed ARV because the market rental value of your unit is now lower than the assessed ARV in the 2009 Valuation List. As in the past, when increases in market rental values were not reflected in the assessed ARVs between revaluations, likewise, decreases in market rental values are not reflected in ARVs between revaluations.

 

Every five years a revaluation of all properties on the Island is carried out for land tax purposes. The valuation date is fixed as at the date of deposit of each Valuation List. The current 2009 Valuation List was deposited on the 31st December 2009 and the annual rental values appearing therein reflect the levels of rental value as at the 31st December 2009 and not subsequent fluctuations in the rental market.

 

The valuation date for each Valuation List is fixed as at the date of deposit of the Valuation List. Therefore, changes in market rents between revaluation dates, whether an increase or decrease, are not reflected in the assessed ARV. When the next revaluation is carried out in 2014, the reassessed values will at that time reflect the market rental values as at the 31st December 2014, the date of deposit of the 2014 Valuation List.

 

How do I get a separate assessment number for my apartment?
Once you receive your certificate of use and occupancy permit from the Department of Planning for the apartment, contact the Land Valuation Department directly who will issue you an assessment number provided that the unit is separately occupied.

 

What happened to the 2004 Valuation List?
The 2004 Valuation List which came into effect for tax purposes on 1st January 2005 was superseded by the 2009 Valuation List. The 2009 Valuation List was placed on deposit on the 31st December 2009 and came into effect for tax purposes on 1st January 2010. The 2009 Valuation List will be replaced by the 2014 Valuation List on the 1st January 2015. More information on the 2009 Revaluation can be found on the 2009 Revaluation page of this site.

 

Where can I get a copy of the legislation that relates to land tax?
The principal pieces of legislation that deal with land tax are:

  • Land Valuation and Tax Act 1967
  • Land Valuation and Tax (Objections And Appeals) Rules 1967
  • Land Tax Act 1967

 

There are a number of other Acts in respect of land taxation and these can be found together with copies of the above Acts atwww.bermudalaws.bm.

 

How do I get my house name changed in the Valuation List?
Requests for a house name change should be made by the taxpayer in writing to the Land Valuation Department (an email will suffice), identifying the assessment number(s) of the valuation unit(s) and what the new house name is.


House name changes are normally made on the day of receipt of the written request and will appear on the website the following day.

 

How do I find out who owns a particular property?
The Land Valuation Department does not hold a record of property ownership. Enquiries in respect of ownership of real estate should be made to the Land Title Registry Office who can be reached on 294-9260.

 

What right does the Land Valuation Department have to collect information on my property and is the data that it collects treated as confidential?
The Land Valuation and Tax Act 1967 gives the Director the authority to request information about a valuation unit by form of return as well as the authority for the Director or any person authorized by him in writing to enter on, survey and value any valuation unit.

It is an offence under the Act to fail without reasonable excuse to complete and return the form of return within 21 days and it is also an offence to willfully delay or obstruct the Director or a person authorized by him from entering on, surveying or valuing any valuation unit.

The information is collected for the sole purpose of compiling and maintaining the Valuation List. The information collected is treated as confidential and used solely for land taxation purposes and is not released or shared with any other Government Department. The only information that is made available to the public on an individual valuation unit is the entry in the Valuation List.

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