CHENNAI: Buying rice and curd can take much of someone's time, according to corporation officials. The reason for the poor record of the civic body in collecting property tax is that revenue staff are spending much of their time procuring provisions for the expanding Amma canteens, they say.
Other reasons cited for poor tax collection are election work to prepare the final voters' list, attending training to conduct polls, distribution of government freebies and also working for Aadhaar enrolment. The civic body used to collect 3 crore to 4 crore in property tax every day but that has reduced to 1 crore to 2 crore a day because of election work, officials say.
Property tax is the major source of revenue for the civic body, and any shortfall impacts infrastructure projects like bus shelters, public toilets, new roads, garbage clearance and payment of wages to employees. Corporation data shows that the civic body has managed to collect only 390 crore so far against a target of 550 crore for 2013-14. In 2012-13, the civic body collected 461 crore against the target of 500 crore.
A corporation official says they are unable to concentrate on tax collection especially after the Amma canteens. "We are really confused about whether to collect tax or to manage Amma canteens," said an official. He said they were unable to conduct field inspections to issue show-cause notices to defaulters.
The civic body's 273 tax collectors in 15 zones have to collect tax for around 13 lakh properties. But delays in procuring 300 new handheld devices that can issue instant receipts has also affected tax collection. Statistics show 78% of property tax is collected by tax collectors, 16% by zonal collection centres, 4% come in online and only 2% of residents pay through banks. The civic body has also been receiving complaints about online transaction failures and missing names from owners' list.
Property tax rates in Chennai, which have not been hiked since 1998, are the lowest among all metros. But thousands of properties are paying lower tax to the corporation resulting in a huge loss. In contrast, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation is using Geographic Information System (GIS) in order to unearth lakhs of un-assessed properties.