MB Subba

Members’ failure to attend a committee meeting recently led to the National Assembly passing Section 9 of the Property Tax Bill 2020, which pertains to exemption of the property transfer tax within the family, without a proper discussion.

The Speaker on February 7 had directed the good governance committee to discuss issues related to the Section and propose recommendations to the House. The committee was supposed to present its recommendations yesterday, which means that it had three days to convene a meeting.

When the Speaker asked the committee yesterday to present its report, vice chairman of the committee, Kinga Penjor, said that the committee could not present its report due to lack of a quorum in the meeting, which was called on February 7.

He told Kuensel that the nine-member committee needed six MPs to meet the quorum but that only four showed up. He chose not to reveal the names of the absentee MPs.

Kinga Penjor said that there were four issues that were based on submissions made by members during the deliberation on which the committee needed to come up with recommendations. One of the issues was whether or not to exempt the property tax on transaction of land within a gewog.

According to Section 9, the property transfer tax shall be exempt at the time of the change of ownership if, the property is transferred between immediate family members. The Bill defines immediate family members as parent, children and spouse.

In some cases, a family land is jointly owned by brothers and sisters but registered in one of the member’s name. In such a case, Kinga Penjor said that the Bill is silent on whether or not the transfer of ownership to the children of any of the brothers or sisters, who dies, will be taxed.

“We wanted to come up with recommendations on these issues. I feel uncomfortable to report that we could not convene the meeting,” he said.

He requested the Speaker if the committee could be given a second chance to call a meeting to discuss the issues and present its report to the House at a later date. The Speaker denied the request and put the Bill to vote for adoption.

This means that issues pertaining to Section 9 that emerged during the deliberation remain unaddressed even as the Bill has been passed.

Bad example

Expressing regrets, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that the committee had set a bad example and asked MPs to prioritise committee works. He reminded members that people have entrusted them with responsibilities and that they should work with full dedication.

“It’s a matter of joke to say that the meeting could not convene due to lack of a quorum. As a result the committee has no recommendations to present to the House,” he said.

The Speaker said that such incidents had not happened before. “If such an issue arises again in future, it would be an indication of lack of responsibility on part of the members,” he said.

The committee comprises five members from the ruling party and four from the opposition. Members from the ruling party are chairman of the committee Ugyen Tshering from Lango Wangcha, Kinga Penjor from Gangzur Minjey, Hemant Gurung from Lhamoidzingkha, Tenzin from Khatoed Laya and Garja Man Rai from Tsirangtoe Sergithang.

Members belonging to the Opposition are Dorji Wangdi from Panbang, Tshering Chhoden from Khar-Yurung, Ugyen Dorji from Dewathang- Gomdar and Ugyen Wangdi from Dramitse-Ngatshang.

The National Assembly during the first session reduced the number of committees to nine from 11 for efficient functioning of the committees and strengthening the membership.

The House yesterday adopted the Property Tax Bill with 35 Yes votes and two No votes. Forty-five members were present at the session yesterday. Eight members abstained.

According to Section 9 of the Bill, the property tax is exempt if the property is split as one’s share of property under joint ownership. The tax is also exempted if the property shared under a divorce settlement as per the judgment of the Court.

The Bill also exempts property transfer tax if the property is transferred to registered religious organisations and public benefit organisation registered under Civil Society Organisation.

Also, according to the Bill, the seller irrespective of whether the property is located in urban centres or rural areas should bear the property transfer tax of 3 percent of the value. The Bill reduced the vehicle transfer tax from 5 percent to 1 percent.