Tax collection dips 5% despite city expansion
CHENNAI: Chennai has grown by more than two-andhalf times since its boundaries were redrawn last September to include surrounding municipalities andtowns , but property tax collected by the corporation this year has dropped nearly 5% from the previous fiscal.
Civic body officials admitted that technical problems during the corporation’s shift to an e-governance system and a staff crunch led to the poor collection this year . The civic body had taken in 358 crore against a targeted 558 crore from 15 zones as on March 31 , the last day for payment of property tax for 2011-2012 . This is 18 crore less than the previous year’s collection of 376 crore . The target last year was 479 crore.
The corporation has been caught unprepared on several fronts since September 2011, when its council ratified a government order to bring 42 local bodies in neighbouring Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts under the Greater Chennai Corporation , expanding the city limitsfrom 174sq km to426sq km.
While some officials said many people probably forgot to pay the tax or were unaware of the payment process , the situation at most of the tax collection centres showed up the explanation as misleading . An accountant with a private firm and a resident of Kodambakkam , R Gopalakrishnan , was waiting outside the cabin of a revenue official , desperately trying to explain his situation to official’s personal assistant . “Only my parents stay in this house. Here are documents showing tax payments till 2009. I am willing to pay the dues for two years with the tax for this year . The zonal office sent me here to get it updated ,” he said . The revenue officer scribbled something on the documents and said , “Go show this to the zonal office , they will update it now.”
Gopalakrishnan said the procedural hoops that one has to go through for what should be a simple settlement of dues are characteristic of the way the civic body functions.
“I hope that this trip to the zonal office will be the last . I have already taken three days of leave just to pay the tax , but I’ve only been running around with a cheque ,” he said . Gopalakrishnan’s story is similar to those of many taxpayers at the zonal revenue offices and Ripon Buildings . Officials said there were many technical problems while entering data to take the system online even though the process was outsourced . “Our servers could not take the load , especially with the amount of data after thecity expanded ,” a corporation official said .
“We have given powers to zonal officers to update the information online so people do not have to go to our offices unless it involves a disputed case ,” he said . Civic body officials have this year allowed payments to be made at erstwhile municipality offices to make the process easier for people living in extended areas . The tax rates also remained unchanged.