The row over tax fraud in zonal offices has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the city corporation.
An updated database of tax dues and aggressive endorsement of online payment of property tax has created a record of sorts in collection with the corporation grossing Rs 115 crore as property tax in 2022-23, as per the latest figures presented in the budget document for 2023-24.
The civic body had set a target of Rs 100 crore in 2022-23. In the last five fiscals, the collection of property tax in the city increased by 167%, figures show.
The dues from central government buildings also showed a marked rise. It grew from an annual collection of Rs 20.64 lakh in 2018-19 to Rs 1.36 crore in 2022-23.
Following the issue related to tax collection in zonal offices, the civic body had directed the revenue wing to update the database. Besides, online payment of tax was heavily promoted as actual dues began to be reflected on the website. Earlier, people desisted from online payment as the page used to show arrears from the previous fiscals for which tax was already paid.
The civic body also took drastic measures by initiating revenue recovery procedures against defaulters with tax dues above Rs 1 lakh. Revenue recovery notices were filed with the district administration against 80 defaulters in the past two months.
Service charge collection from the central government buildings grew by over 500% in the last five fiscals, the budget figures show.
When the database was updated, notices were also served on central government buildings. Clarification was issued based on the legal provisions.
The service charge is levied in compliance with the directives of the ministry of finance and ministry of works, housing and supply. In two separate directives to local bodies dated 1954 and 1967, respectively, the ministry of finance and the ministry of housing, works and supply, it was specified that the central government institutions shall pay service charges to local bodies at a rate of 75%, 50% or 33% of property tax depending on whether the services of municipality is availed fully, partially or nil.
The corporation also relied on a Supreme Court order issued in 2009 while considering a joint petition filed by the municipal corporations of Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Vadodara seeking charges for providing services like water, sewage, lighting, road and waste management to central government buildings.
The court had ruled that the central government buildings are liable to pay service charges to the municipal corporations for providing services like supply of water, conservancy/sewerage disposal, apart from general services like approach roads with streetlights, drains etc.