Hoardings to be fixed with radio frequency tags to keep tabs on tax dues, licence expiry dates

Billboards dotting the city skyline may soon set the cash boxes of Kochi Corporation ringing.

The corporation is adopting modern methods to keep tabs on the gigantic billboards and pull down illegal hoardings in the city. Starting next month, the civic authorities will stick electronic tags to the billboards. The tags — Radio Frequency IDs — will store data regarding the hoarding, including details on the tax paid by the agency that put it up. The date of installation of the hoarding, the tax rate applicable for the display board and the date of licence expiry could be read from the tag with an electronic reader, officials said.

The corporation has obtained the radio link for the project from the public sector company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. The scheme was part of the modernisation drive of the civic administration, officials said.

The corporation has also bought an electronic device that will help them correctly size up the hoardings and bill the agencies accordingly. Presently, the civic authority has no means to crosscheck the specifications of billboards mounted on tall buildings, which leads to loss of revenue as the actual size of the hoarding cannot be verified with the data provided by the agencies.

The corporation is expecting a swell in tax revenue from hoardings after plugging the loopholes. The council had earlier enacted a bylaw for governing the display of advertisements. The changes in the display of advertisements were being introduced after creating a legal framework for accommodating such changes, said a civic administrator.

Cleaning up

The corporation has also launched a drive to bring advertisement freeloaders under the tax net and rid the city of display materials that illegally promote products or services.

Two squads of civic officials are doing the rounds from Monday to hunt down illegally displayed publicity materials. Deputy Mayor of Kochi corporation B. Bhadra said teams of civic officials, including revenue and building Inspectors, had been pressed into action in the eastern sector of the city.

The corporation officials are also looking for shops that have put up billboards with brand names and the names of shops on it. Advertisement tax would be assessed for such boards as per the existing tax regime. The shops will be asked to remit the tax according to the assessment. The progress of the work would be reviewed next week, she said.

Revenue up

The decision to directly collect tax for publicity materials has brought windfall gains to the corporation. The civic body collected Rs. 45 lakh in two months, that too before launching the drive. The existing practice in the civic body was to auction the right to collect taxes to private agencies. Last year, the right was auctioned for Rs. 85 lakh. The corporation has raised half of that money in just two months. If this was any indication, the civic body would be able to generate a substantial amount as tax from the sector, said Ms. Bhadra.

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