Thukten Zangpo 

The government’s decision to withdraw the Property Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022 from the ongoing National Assembly session violates the rules of procedure of the House, according to the Opposition Leader.

The Bill was scheduled for introduction on October 2 according to the National Assembly’s agenda published on its website and distributed to the media.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that the National Assembly Speaker can reorder the business of the House but cannot withdraw the Bill.

The Bill, at this stage, he said can be only withdrawn after the Member In-charge of the Bill submits the formal motion to withdraw in the daily business order of the Parliament as practised in the past sessions.

The draft agenda for the session was finalised after approval from the members of the government, the opposition and Member In-Charge of the Bill present during the preliminary meeting.

According to Section 66 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly 2022, “Any agenda item finalised in a preliminary meeting may be withdrawn with leave of the House.”

The Opposition Leader said that the Speaker shared the message to withdraw the Bill from the agenda in the MPs’ social media group on October 3. “MPs raised objections.”

“It is disrespectful to the Parliament and to the opposition members because we were not informed,” Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said. “The Speaker will have to uphold the rules and procedures.”

Admitting the procedural lapses, NA’s Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that there is no hidden agenda and motion of withdrawal has to be on the same day of the introduction of the Bill.

In response to the government’s decision to withdraw the Bill, the Finance Minister and Member In-Charge of the Bill, Namgay Tshering said that there was no requirement for the intended section of the Bill for amendment in this session.

The intended section, which is the payment deadline for taxes (land and property), he said that the finance ministry will notify directly to the relevant agencies and dzongkhags. He added that the move would align the payment deadline for property  with other annual taxes like income tax, which is paid in March every year.

Lyonpo also said that the taxes for the income year 2022 are paid in March this year, and imposing property taxes in the same year would be burdensome for taxpayers.

According to the Property Tax Act of Bhutan 2022, all taxes are due and payable within December 31 of each year.