BENGALURU: In April 2016, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) assured citizens that despite reclassification of zones and revision of tax, citizens will not have to pay more than 20 per cent over what they were paying earlier as property tax. But by the time the clarification came, around two lakh people had already paid the tax. They were assured that the excess money collected would be adjusted against the tax for the following year, but evidently, that has not happened.
Over the last three days, a mad scramble was seen at the BBMP head office with people thronging there to get the excess amount adjusted against this year’s property tax as Thursday is the last day to avail the 5 per cent rebate.
But the chairman of the BBMP Standing Committee on Taxation and Finance, M K Gunashekhar, feels it fit to pride himself for getting 10,22,000 property owners to pay tax this year, as against 7 lakh property owners this time last year.
He swears that there is no software glitch in their system. But the taxpayers are not buying the argument. A pointer to this is the fact that the Joint Commissioner’s office is flooded with people who say they have been fleeced.
He said he has held four meetings with National Informatics Centre (NIC) officials, who developed the software. “I gave them a list of 20 problems in the software, and they have managed to solve some of them,” he asserted.
Gunashekhar says they have a target of collecting `2,600 crore in property tax this year and have collected `1,206 crore so far. BBMP will reach the target in the next ten months, albeit at the cost of hundreds of citizens running from pillar to post to get their money back. Express found many such cases though the civic authority is in denial.
BBMP Joint Commissioner (Revenue) M Venkatachalapathy admitted that several tax payers had faced problems. Even as many people still throng BBMP offices with complaints, he said the number of such grievances had in fact greatly reduced. He claimed that the main reason for the huge number of complaints was that many people had paid the tax during the period between April 4 and mid-June in 2016. At the time, the new software came into place and the method of tax computation changed.
“People themselves are also to blame, as many have entered the wrong zone or category for their properties, or, at times, had entered the wrong unit of measurement,” he claimed.
He also admitted that he had received complaints of the presence of touts outside some BBMP offices and asked people to not take their help.
Situation at ward offices
Nagarathnamma, the revenue officer at Sarvagna Nagar ward office, told Express that in case of excess property tax payment, the ward offices cannot help. “We write to the IT department in such cases. At our end, we can only correct names and other basic details,” she said.
Assistant revenue officer Veena said that Sarvagna Nagar alone has had around 200 citizens approaching them over payment of excess property tax. “In cases where the money has been debited more than once, the officials hold a meeting with bank officials and auditors. If it is established that BBMP indeed received more money as tax, it is adjusted against the property tax for the following year,” she said.
An officer at the Gandhinagar office said about 25 people still visit the offfice every day with property tax issues. On Wednesday, many people were seen visiting until afternoon.
However, the office was locked around 2.30 pm and no officials were to be seen. The officer confirmed that everyone had to leave on account of some other work related to hoardings. Wednesday was the penultimate day to avail the 5 per cent rebate.
At the BBMP head office, it is a common sight to see people waiting outside for hours, some of them on a daily basis, waiting for the officials concerned to return from the field visits.