Drumbeats to mop up taxes

Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) plans to beat drums and announce names of major commercial establishments defaulting on holding tax in the city.

The drive, starting from February 15, would entail tax collectors identifying non-tax-paying commercial properties on principal main roads in the city followed by main roads and others.

In the first-ever initiative, the names of big defaulters would be publicly announced in their respective localities by beating of drums.

The drive would conclude on March 31, which marks the end of the current financial year.

Giving a brief outline of the upcoming holding tax collection drive, additional municipal commissioner Shashank Shekhar Sinha told The Telegraph on Tuesday: "The drive would focus on commercial properties to ensure generation of maximum revenue by utilising available resources within the targeted time.

"Joint teams of tax collectors, circle officers and Grade IV employees of the corporation are ready for this drive. They would measure and assess the corresponding holding tax for 10 holdings per day."

Sources said the PMC has 21 tax collectors at present and centralised data of tax defaulters from all four administrative circles of the civic body was prepared in December, 2012.

"We would first identify the untapped commercial establishments followed by those residential properties, which have been partially or completely converted into commercial units. Finally, we would target apartments, which have not been included under the holding tax ambit," said a senior PMC official.

On the public announcements through drumbeats, Sinha said: "After assessing the pending holding tax, we would serve notices on the owners. If they fail to pay up, then we would start making public announcements with drumbeats. Collecting civic taxes from citizens is a challenge. Hence, we are coming up with these experiments to build pressure on the residents."

Sources in the PMC informed that the big defaulters have been served several notices in the past and the civic body might also take punitive action against them, including snapping municipal services, attaching their properties and realising its tax dues by selling immovable assets of the defaulters.

"As soon as the state government notifies us about the Bihar Municipal Property Tax (Assessment, Collection and Recovery) Rules, 2013 and is adopted by the PMC board, we would start using its provisions to take strict action against the defaulters and generate maximum revenue," said Sinha.

Sources said the civic body was expected to have suffered revenue loss of around Rs 70 crore per annum accruing to non-payment of holding taxes by owners of residential as well commercial properties. The PMC is feared to have been suffering such huge revenue loss because of non-assessment of an estimated 2.5 lakh holdings in the city, which have not been covered under the holding tax ambit. Though Bihar Municipal Act, 2007 envisages general survey of holdings after a period of every five years, the same has not been done in the PMC area since 1996.

The civic body collected Rs 17 crore in the fiscal year 2010-11, Rs 28 crore in 2011-12 and around Rs 28 crore in the current financial year from owners of private properties. The per annum target for collection of holding tax in PMC is Rs 33 crore.

Apart from private defaulters, the total amount of holding tax due on various government bodies as on Tuesday was Rs 153.64 crore.

Bihar State Electricity Board is apparently the biggest defaulter, with due holding tax amounting to Rs 150.3 crore.

Other big defaulters in the government sector are Bihar Rajya Hastkargha Bunkar Shayog Samiti Sangh (Rs 10,71,754), Patna Medical College and Hospital (Rs 5,20,779), State Education Research and Training Institute (Rs 2,54,364), Anjuman Islamia Hall (Rs 2,53,546) and Patna Dental College (Rs 3,87,828) among others.

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