The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) criticism of the Kochi Corporation’s tardiness in collecting property tax has come as a rude wake-up call for the civic body. Stung by the criticism, the corporation has started collecting the arrears. The collection of property tax arrear from the Government Guest House building, owned by the Department of Tourism, was the direct result of the CAG’s criticism.
The agency had criticised the corporation for failing to collect property tax arrears amounting to Rs. 25.61 crore from various individuals and institutions in the city.
In its report for local self-government institutions for the year ending 2011, the CAG had mentioned that the tax of the Government Guest House building had to be collected from October 1, 2005. It had also pulled up the civic body for the delay in collecting the property tax. The auditors had also observed that several buildings had escaped assessment in the city.
“The tax arrear for the Guest House building was recovered in full. Arrears have also been realised from a few other buildings in the city recently,” said B. Bhadra, Deputy Mayor.
The corporation has also issued demand notices to property tax defaulters numbering around 1,500.
The list of defaulters is being updated and tax demanded from them. The tax arrears register and the asset registers were not updated regularly in the civic body.
The documents were updated after the new regime took charge in the civic body, she said.
“The Town Planning and Revenue Departments have started sharing information on properties before issuing them occupancy certificates. Such a system will ensure the tax assessment and collection before the occupancy certificates are issued to buildings,” she said.
Officials of the Revenue wing of the Kochi Corporation said that there had been a delay of around three years in updating the documents related to property tax arrears. The realisation of the arrears would bring in considerable revenue to the civic body, he said.
The CAG had also criticised the Kochi Corporation for not having a comprehensive database of all assessable properties. Demand Register/Arrear Demand Register maintained by the corporation was not updated and complete, and details like year-wise arrears, or the arrears of individual assessees, were not readily available, it said.
The complete and accurate data on all assessable public and private properties such as residential and non-residential properties, Central and State government properties, properties of autonomous bodies was a pre requisite for raising demand and collection of property tax, it pointed out.