Dealing with real estate taxes
Two days ago I was at the Ivorian tax office in the Cocody Municipality to sort out some real estate tax matters. Quite an interesting experience.
According to the tax code an owner-occupied house has a tax rate of 4% on the potential rent, and for a rented house the rate is 15%. However, in practice I’m not sure how many of Abidjan’s 4 million residents that actually pay this tax, and I have a feeling the understanding and acceptance of the tax is pretty low especially in poorer areas.
For a buy to let investor, there is an obvious and direct benefit of paying the real estate tax, in that the letting agreement must be registered at the tax office to be valid.
Anyhow, at the tax office there were no queues. At the reception I was told that they had run out of the form I was supposed to fill in, but that I could go directly to room no 26 and sort it out there. At room 26 I was told to go to the reception to get the form and that I should really go to room 14 to handle my errand. I know this sounds like the start of a Kafka-esque African bureaucracy nightmare story, but fortunately that’s not at all the way it turned out.
I was shown the way to room 14 – and all along people were very friendly and helpful and there were no waiting times. At room 14 there were three tax officers at work, each with their own desks and computers, but no phones or internet connection. They got me the form, helped me to fill it out, and then I discovered that I had left one document that I was supposed to hand in at home in Europe. Not at all expecting a positive answer, I asked if I could possibly send them the document by email. The tax officer ( who had no internet connection at work) said “yes, please email it as an attachment”, and gave me his personal yahoo address. Not quite sure if he did it because he wanted to make a good impression in front of foreigner or something else, but I liked the initiative, and sent him the document by email today. The attachments are 2 jpg files of 1Mb each, and that could be a problem if he – as I suspect – is receiving my email at an internet cafe with slow connection. Well, I’ll see how it goes and report back on the blog!
Am I the only one paying?
I also have a nagging suspicion that I’m the only one in the neighbourhood around the Cocody house paying the real estate tax. At the tax office they said they’ll go out in the field starting in March 2012 and catch non-payers, but to me it looks they are a bit under-staffed and under-equipped for a very big task.
On the way out a lady in the reception asked me repeatedly to give her my pen as a gift. I kind of needed it so I kept it, and I still don’t know if it was a subtle request for a bribe, just an expression of African solidarity of sharing things or something else.