Land use charge law:history, prospects and challenges in Lagos state
On Monday, February 5, 2018, a new legislation on land charge, the Land Use Charge Law 2018 (the “new Land Use Charge Law“), was passed and became effective in Lagos State. The new Land Use Charge Law came into effect following the assent given to the Land Use Charge Bill 2017 (the “Bill“) by His Excellency, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, Executive Governor of Lagos State.
The Lagos State House of Assembly (the “Lagos Assembly“) had earlier on January 29, 2018, passed the Bill for “a law to provide for the consolidation of property and land-based charges and make provisions for the levying and collection of land use charge in Lagos State and for connected purposes” following which the Governor assented to the Bill, as indicated above.
The new Land Use Charge Law repealed1 the Land Use Charge Law 20012, Land Rates Law3, and the Neighborhood Improvement Charge Law[4 but provides that anything done under the repealed laws which was in force before the commencement of the new Land Use Charge Law, shall continue to exist or be in force as if done under the new Land Use Charge Law5.
Rationale for the new Land Use Charge Law
The long title of the new Land Use Charge Law provides the rationale for the law. It states that the law provides for the consolidation of all property and land based charges and the levying and collection of land use charge (“LUC“) in Lagos State. We however note that the consolidation of land related taxes in Lagos State is not peculiar to the new Land Use Charge Law, as this idea was first introduced under the repealed Land Use Charge Law 20016. As a matter of fact, among the objectives of the repealed 2001 Law were the consolidation and simplification of the payment of property taxes in Lagos State and the generation of additional revenue for the State7. It will therefore appear that the 2001 Law should have been amended to address the gaps and inadequacies identified therein (rates unreflective of current economic realities; unclear definition of affected properties; and lack of an out-of-court settlement mechanism to resolve disputes arising from tax assessment)8, rather than enacting the new Land Use Charge Law.
We now proceed to highlight some of the key provisions in the new Land Use Charge Law.
- Collecting Authorities – The new Land Use Charge Law designates each Local Government Area (“LGA“) in Lagos State as the Collecting Authority for LUC, and further empowers the LGAs as the only body having authority to levy and collect Tenement Rates9. As a Collecting Authority, each LGA is also allowed to delegate to the State Government, by a written agreement, its functions with respect to the assessment of privately owned houses or tenement for the purpose of levying and collecting such rates10. An LGA is defined in the new Land Use Charge Law to include a Local Council Development Area (LCDA)11.
- Exempted Properties – The Law also provides that LUC shall be payable in respect of all properties in the State except those exempted under Section 12 of the Law. The exemption granted is applicable to some categories of properties including any property (1) owned and occupied by a religious body and used exclusively as a place of worship or religious education; (2) used as a public cemetery or burial ground; (3) used as a registered educational institution certified by the Commissioner for Finance to be non-profit making; (4) which is the palace of a recognized Oba and Chief in Lagos State; as well as (5) specifically exempted by the Executive Governor by a notice published in the State Official Gazette12.
- Forfeiture of Exemption – Where any exempted property is leased out to private entities for the purpose of generating revenue, the relevant property shall forfeit its exemption status and thus become liable to pay LUC13. Forfeiture of exemption status also arises where (1) the use of a property changes to one that does not qualify for exemption; (2) a property owner changes its use to one that does not qualify for exemption; and (3) the property of a religious body is registered in the name of an individual or corporate body different from the corporate name of the religious body14.
- Grant of Partial Reliefs – Besides the grant of exemption, the Commissioner for Finance is empowered under the new Land Use Charge Law to, by a notice published in the State Official Gazette, grant partial relief for a property (1) that is occupied by a non-profit making organization; (2) used solely for community games, sports, athletics, or recreation for the benefit of the general public; and (3) used for a charitable or benevolent purpose for the benefit of the general public and owned by a non-profit making organization15.
- Issuance of Demand Notice, Payment Conditions & Discounts – Under the new Land Use Charge Law, the Commissioner for Finance is also entrusted with the responsibility for issuing in each Financial Year, a Land Use Charge Demand Notice (“Demand Notice“) with respect to every chargeable property that has been assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Law16. The delivery of the Demand Notice shall be to the owner or occupier, either of whom may also request for same at any Land Use Charge Office or via electronic platform either by themselves or through an authorized agent of the connected property17. Where there is no owner or occupier or authorized agent to take delivery of the Demand Notice, then same shall be pasted on the property and such pasting shall be deemed sufficient delivery of the Demand Notice18.A person liable to pay the amount stated on the Demand Notice shall make the payment at one of the designated banks specified therein within thirty (30) days after the date of delivery of the Demand Notice19. The new Land Use Charge Law empowers the Commissioner for Finance to reduce the LUC payable by way of discounts. However, only a payment made within fifteen (15) days of the receipt of a Demand Notice shall qualify for this discount and the amount of the discount to be given shall be as specified in the Demand Notice. Furthermore, to enjoy the discount, a qualified payer shall make a written application to the Commissioner for Finance requesting for it20. In our opinion, the requirement for a written application to enjoy the discount is unnecessary. We hold the considered view that discount should automatically apply once the condition indicated in the law (within 15 days of receipt of the relevant Demand Notice) has been complied with.
- Value of Land Use Charge – Essentially, the new Land Use Charge Law prescribes the mode of calculating the LUC due on a property. Accordingly, the annual amount of LUC payable on any property shall be arrived at by multiplying the Market Value of the property by the applicable Relief Rate and Annual Charge Rate, using the prescribed formulae stated in the new Land Use Charge Law and more particularly described in the Schedule thereto21. To create a seamless process, the Commissioner for Finance is empowered to make regulations, subject to the Regulation Approval Law of Lagos State, providing for self-billing and electronic payment of the LUC by property owners