Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor and Another

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
CourtPrivy Council
JudgeLord Ackner
Judgment Date06 February 1990
Neutral Citation[1990] SGPC 2
Citation[1990] SGPC 2
Plaintiff CounselDavid Widdicombe QC and Pathma Selvadurai (Clifford Chance)
Defendant CounselGeorge Newman QC, Lucy Hang Chi and Michael Lazarus (Jaques & Lewis)
Date06 February 1990
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 39 of 1988
Published date19 September 2003
Subject MatterEqual protection of the law,Increase in 'reduced' area,Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 12(1),Method of arriving at rate per sq ft of property,Annual value,Intentional and arbitrary discrimination,Validity of valuation list,ss 2, 4(2), 8, 9, 10, 18(1) & (7) Property Tax Act 1961,Constitutional Law,Property tax,Whether valuation of property discriminatory and unconstitutional,Revenue Law

Cur Adv Vult

This appeal is concerned with the valuation for property tax purposes of the appellant`s dwelling house at 9 Binjai Park, Singapore, for the year 1976. The house was built in 1966, and was then ascribed an annual value of $2,400. In 1970, following a general revaluation of properties in Binjai Park, the annual value was increased to $8,400. In 1975, the appellant carried out extensive alterations and additions to the house, which resulted in the `reduced` floor area being increased from 2,340 sq ft to 4,526 sq ft. A `reduced` area is ascertained by discounting space occupied by passages and bathrooms and the like. The alterations were reported to the Chief Assessor who, by notice dated 30 November 1976, increased the annual value to $28,000. He arrived at this figure by reference to current rentals passing for comparable houses in Binjai Park, which brought out rates of between $6.83 and $10.63 per sq ft of `reduced` area. He considered a rate of $6.37 per sq ft, in the light of these comparisons, to be a fair and reasonable rate for the appellant`s house, and this, when applied to the `reduced` floor area of 4,526 sq ft, brought out his figure of $28,000.

The appellant appealed to the Valuation Review Board which, on 15 September 1980, dismissed his appeal. Various matters were canvassed in the course of the appeal but only one issue has been persisted with in subsequent proceedings. That issue arises out of the circumstance that, although there was a very substantial increase in the general level of rental values in Singapore between 1970 and 1976, the valuations of owner-occupied houses in Binjai Park which did not undergo any structural alterations during that period remained the same throughout. Thus the increased valuation placed upon the appellant`s house for 1976 resulted in the rate per square foot of `reduced` floor area for that house being very much higher than the equivalent rate in that year for those unaltered houses. It was contended for the appellant that this situation contravened art 12(1) of the Constitution of Singapore, which provides:

All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.

In order to avoid any such contravention, so it was argued, there should be applied to the floor area of the house, as increased by the alterations and additions, the same rate per sq ft as was brought out by dividing the 1970 annual value by the 1970 floor area. That rate was $3.59, which brought out a valuation for 1976 of $16,240.

The appellant appealed to the High Court, where Lai Kew Chai J accepted his argument and by judgment dated 24 October 1984, allowed the appeal and reduced the annual value of 9 Binjai Park for the year 1976 to $16,240. [See [1985] 1 MLJ 182 .]

However, on appeal by the Chief Assessor the Court of Appeal (Wee Chong Jin CJ, TS Sinnathuray and LP Thean JJ) set aside the judgement of Lai Kew Chai J and restored the order of the Valuation Review Board. [See [1988] 1 MLJ 139 .] The appellant now appeals to this Board.

At the material time, property tax in Singapore was regulated by the Property Tax Act 1961, as amended in 1973. That Act, with its amendments, has been repealed and re-enacted as the Property Tax Act 1985. The references which their Lordships shall make are to the sections in the former Act, which bear different numbers to those in the Act of 1985.

By s 9 of the Act of 1961, the Chief Assessor is required to cause to be prepared a list, to be known as the Valuation List, of all houses, buildings, land and tenements, containing certain information about each property, including its description and the annual value ascribed to it. Under s 4(2), the Chief Assessor is responsible, for the assessment of...

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8 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Ang Soon Huat
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 1 October 1990
    ...... (R) 133; [1980-1981] SLR 73 (folld) Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor [1990] 1 SLR (R) 78; ...Loh also used another sample from the bulk to perform a thin layer ......
  • Taw Cheng Kong v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 9 January 1998
    ...66 In PP v Ang Soon Huat [1990] 2 SLR (R) 246, Chan Sek Keong J (as he then was) stated (at [23]): In Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor [1990] 1 SLR (R) 78, the Privy Council held that the equal protection clause is contravened if there is a deliberate and arbitrary discrimination against a ......
  • Ramalingam Ravinthran v Attorney-General
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 10 January 2012 relation to the acts of an official who holds a constitutional office). This can be seen from Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor [1990] 1 SLR(R) 78 (“Howe Yoon Chong”), which concerned the Chief Assessor’s assessment of the annual value of the appellant’s dwelling house at a much higher va......
  • Eng Foong Ho and Others v Attorney-General
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 5 January 2009 defects on the necessary scale have not been proved to exist. [emphasis added] 29 Similarly, in Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor [1990] SLR 4, the Privy Council (per Lord Keith of Kinkel, delivering the judgment of the Board) observed thus (at 8–10, 13 The question is whether this stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Administrative and Constitutional Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2015, December 2015
    • 1 December 2015
    ...was whether the treatment accorded was a ‘deliberate and arbitrary discrimination’, as applied in Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor[1990] 1 SLR(R) 78: at [42]. 1.163 The police in their affidavit explained how the general policy was not to grant permits for religious foot processions and tha......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2022, March 2022
    • 1 March 2022
    ...1 SLR 809 at [50]. 83 Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor of Singapore [1979–1980] SLR(R) 594 at [13]; Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor [1990] 1 SLR(R) 78 at [29]. 84 Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin v Attorney-General [2021] 1 SLR 809 at [49]. 85 Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin v Attorney-General [2021] 1 S......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2016, December 2016
    • 1 December 2016
    ...v Attorney-General[2012] 2 SLR 49 at [47]. 151Yong Vui Kong v Attorney-General[2011] 2 SLR 1189. 152Howe Yoon Chong v Chief Assessor[1990] 1 SLR(R) 78. 153 John Laws, “Wednesbury” in The Golden Metwand and Crooked Cord: Essays on Public Law in Honour of Sir William Wade (Christopher Forsyth......

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