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International Handbook of Land and Property Taxation

Edited by Richard M. Bird and Enid Slack

This comprehensive Handbook explores case studies of land and property taxation in 25 countries (five in each of five regions – OECD, central and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America), and focuses on the potential contributions of the property tax to the revenues of urban and rural governments and to more efficient land use.
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Chapter 24: Land Taxes in Colombia

Richard M. Bird


1 Richard M. Bird In 2000, Colombia had 1098 municipalities. All these municipalities, from the largest (Bogotá, the capital) to the smallest, are in principle fully entitled to administer their own resources and to collect the taxes necessary to the performance of their functions ‘within the limits imposed by the Constitution and the law’ (Constitution, Art. 287). Moreover, Article 317 of the Constitution provides that only municipalities can levy taxes on property. This provision has, however, been interpreted to apply only to taxes based solely on the existence of land and does not apply to other taxes related to land, such as gains derived from the sale of real estate. In practice, the taxing powers of local governments depend upon the terms of the laws authorizing each specific tax. As a general rule, the national Congress defines the basic elements of a local tax such as its base and rate. Often, a range of rates is established within which municipalities are free to choose. With respect to fees and special levies (contribuciones), however, the rate can be determined directly by a municipality as long as it follows the procedures established by Congress. Bogotá, Colombia’s largest city, is in a special position: in effect, it is both a municipality and a department (region) at the same time and hence has a unique tax regime. Revenues A recent World Bank report notes that property taxes accounted for 35 percent of Colombian local taxes (Giugale et al., 2003). An earlier report...

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