Citizens who have not paid property tax for several years are set to lose their properties as the civic body has sealed more than 400 such buildings since May this year.
“Notices were sent to owners and occupants of these properties, reminding them about the payment. But they have not paid the tax despite repeated summons, so these properties have been sealed. The future course of action, such as auctioning these properties, will be decided in due course of time,” said Ajit Deshmukh, head of the property tax department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
According to PMC officials, the civic administration has to recover around Rs 8,000 crore from defaulters. This includes big tax defaulters such as industries, commercial complexes, IT parks and hospitals, besides tax on mobile towers.
“Many tax defaulters have gone to court against the notices of recovery. The PMC is not able to take coercive action in many matters. This is causing delays in recovery,” said a senior PMC official.
The official added that the civic administration has also received complaints that tax has been imposed on a single property multiple times. So, the amount of tax to be recovered appears to be exaggerated and inflated, the official said, adding that the administration should take steps to write-off such inflated tax amounts so that it can get realistic tax recovery figures.
Civic activists have alleged that the PMC is not targeting big defaulters, and have given tax waivers through various schemes.
“Many errant defaulters are showing reluctance to pay the tax. They are of the opinion that the PMC will give some tax benefit and discount in the penalty. Introduction of amnesty schemes frequently has given a wrong message to taxpayers,” said Vivek Velankar of Sajag Nagrik Manch, a citizens group.
Last year, the civic body restarted a tax recovery drive using musical bands. The bands are hired to play loud music in front of properties of tax defaulters in an effort to shame them into clearing their dues. Officials from the property tax department accompany the bands to collect payments on the spot.PMC had collected Rs 2,000 crore from property tax in the financial year of 2022-23. The civic administration has set a target of Rs 2,318 crore for the fiscal 2023-24.