BENGALURU: The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has been under fire from various quarters over numerous issues related to payment of property tax. Despite the host of problems encountered by citizens, BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad struck a positive note and defended BBMP officials and NIC. He was also confident that the Palike will achieve the target of `2,600 crore this year. Excerpts from an interview:
Do you acknowledge that far too many people have faced problems due to glitches in the property tax software?
I would say, if 10.91 lakh people have paid property tax for the year 2017-18 in two-and-a-half months, this is a 36.9 per cent growth, compared to the same period last year. For the whole year 2016-17, we had 11.16 lakh taxpayers. This means that 97.56 per cent of the total taxpayers who paid last year have made their tax payments this year. This leaves out another 25,000-odd taxpayers.
I would not say these are glitches in the software. The issues have to be addressed on case to case basis. For this purpose, we have opened a Tax Support wing in all the zonal offices to help citizens get issues regarding property tax addressed. We have given adequate training to the field staff to help citizens.
What kind of complaints were received?
We have received a total of 4,000 complaints from various quarters. The cardinal principle of Self-Assessment Scheme (SAS) is that property owners have to declare correctly their property details. During this process, lot of mistakes have happened while choosing the zones, declaring the built-up area, number of floors, usage of the building (commercial/residential/rental), using the right forms for special privileges for ex-servicemen, depreciation, etc. Apart from these, we have cases of double payment.
What was the main reason for the complaints?
The SAS notification was issued on March 16, 2016 and the rates and the zonal classification were upgraded. Collection of 2016-17 property tax started from April 4, 2016. The revised software was developed and made available only from June 16. Consequently, the tax paid by owners from April 4 to June 15 using the earlier formula was found to be in excess in some cases and short in some cases. Action has been taken in this regard and differences are shown in the challans and receipts of this year.
Do you think changes need to be made to the system of tax payment?
I would say the tax system being deployed is one of the best in class. The system has a robust auto-reconciliation method with the centralised bank account of BBMP informing us at every stage the tax collected against each property. This system also gives us a bird’s-eye view on property tax collection.
Why was NIC shosen to develop the software?
National Informatics Centre is a premier S&T organization of the Government of India, which provides e-governance solutions and has institutional linkages with many government bodies, resulting in better efficiency and accountability. It has developed this property tax system along with the support of our revenue and IT departments. I would like to mention the services of NIC are pro bono.
In our process of GIS-enabled Property Tax Information system (GEPTIS), our revenue department staff have verified more than 45 per cent of the properties during 2016-17. They have also linked properties, SAS application to the GIS database.
Do you think the Palike will reach its target for property tax collection this year?
Yes, with our technology platform and GEPTIS enabling various exceptional reporting and helping in scientific tax administration, SAS verification, Total Survey station and door-to-door survey by the revenue department, I am confident of reaching the target.