CRIM to go after 200,000 new properties expected to yield millions in tax revenue

By The Star Staff

The Municipal Revenue Collections Center (CRIM by its Spanish acronym) plans to go after some 200,000 new properties that were discovered through new technology in 2017 to register them in CRIM’s roster and obtain millions in tax revenue.

It also plans to go after an estimated 500,000 properties that have been remodeled or have new additions to reassess their value for property tax purposes, officials said at a news conference.

The CRIM is the agency that collects taxes from businesses and property taxes for municipalities. The agency, which is headed by island mayors, collects $650 million in property taxes for some 1.5 million properties and about $430 million in business equipment taxes.

CRIM Executive Director Reynaldo Paniagua said he did not know how much money in additional funding the CRIM would be collecting because some of the properties under the law could be exempted from paying property taxes.

Paniagua said he hopes that in the first months of the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July, the CRIM will start seeing results in the form of new revenue.

“I believe that this will help us to really have a complete picture of the tax situation of properties in Puerto Rico and I definitely believe that it will be a potential vehicle to increase collections and give us the clear elements of what we have,” Paniagua said at a news conference.

CRIM consultant Orlando Otero added that the project to identify properties that are unregistered with the CRIM used special photos taken in 2017 of all of Puerto Rico and compared to photos taken in 2007 to identify new properties and those that have been remodeled or have new additions, such as swimming pools.

He said the project led the CRIM to identify some 239,338 new properties, 517,505 properties with new additions and 25,951 swimming pools not registered with the CRIM.

The properties were assigned a number.

“We want to make a mass registration of these properties,” Otero said.

The CRIM system would match or connect the data with that held by the Planning Board and the utilities, including the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, to obtain information on owners. The CRIM will send notifications to the owners of the unregistered properties or those who have modified their homes, and an initial notification containing a new property value assessment.

“If the owner has objections, he or she can request a revision and even use independent property assessment technicians,” Otero said.

Besides increasing the CRIM’s roster, the project would clarify the status of property owners who are exempted under the law from paying property taxes. Property owners who have made improvements or built additions to their properties will keep their exemptions but will have to pay taxes on the improvements, such as swimming pools. The federal Financial Oversight and Management Board has said the government must restrict property tax exemptions, Paniagua said.

Based on the information that has been obtained, the central municipalities of the island appeared to have the highest number of unregistered properties, Otero said.

Asked if the CRIM’s initiative would help ease the proposed $44 million cut to towns proposed in the budget for next year, CRIM Board Chairman Jesús Colón Berlingeri said it would help but not much because the proposed cut would come out of the Equalization Fund, a different source of revenue.

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