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Towards Property Tax Compliance

A Case Study of Attitudes Toward Paying Property Taxes in Jamaica

Tina M. F. Beale, Rochelle A. Channer Miller, Amani Ishemo, and Cadien A. Murray-Stuart

December 2016, English

Jamaica’s property tax compliance rate has consistently been described as “low,” “dismal,” and “inadequate.” Its performance is of utmost importance to the country since the tax is primarily used to fund local services including the provision of roads, road repairs, garbage collection, and the maintenance of streetlights.

This study investigates property tax compliance in Jamaica over the financial years 2010–2011 to 2015–2016 using data from a survey. The survey was designed to address two issues, specifically:

1. Jamaicans’ attitude toward property tax, and

2. The effect of fairness, deterrence, and public shame on self-reported willingness to comply with the property tax.

As such, the survey instrument featured an attitude survey along with an experiment, testing the responses to the variables of fairness, deterrence and public shame. The results of the survey were then merged with the actual property tax behaviour of respondents and analyzed spatially in a geographic information system (GIS).

The results of the study suggest, inter alia, Jamaica’s property tax compliance rate may be higher than previously reported, survey respondents generally had a compliant attitude towards the property tax and highlights the need for an accounting system that can effectively monitor property tax collections and enforcement. It was also noted that penalties and interest charges were applied ultra vires the Property Tax Act 1903.

Our findings also entail a discussion on four property tax attitude-behaviour profiles of respondents and highlight the need for a common spatial data infrastructure across government departments. Finally, the study conveys the need to elicit potential latent trends of the investigated phenomenon.


Assessment, GIS, Land Value Taxation, Local Government, Mapping, Property Taxation