Not paid your property tax? Beware, for very soon a town crier may just show up in your locality and announce to the neighbours and the world at large that you have defaulted on your dues.
The Chennai Corporation is making arrangements to employ town criers — those who traditionally made court and public announcements — to both make residents aware of their legal obligations, and ensure that those who haven’t paid their property tax, are motivated into doing so.
Up until the end of February, the civic body collected Rs. 351 crore as property tax from across the 15 zones of the city for this financial year, said a senior Corporation official.
However, the Corporation now hopes to achieve a target of Rs. 500 crore by the end of this month, and this is where their novel awareness-creation programme is expected to help.
The Corporation arrived at the idea of using town criers — who, in medieval England were the chief means of news communication — as they face a number of challenges when it comes to collecting property tax.
Lack of manpower
A lack of adequate manpower in the Corporation’s revenue department is one of the problems. For the total 426 sq. km. of the city, the number of tax collectors is less than 250.
As the civic body has done away with hand books for tax collectors, the collection of tax has become more challenging, as they personally have to visit homes and commercial establishments to collect dues.
The number of assessees handled by a tax collector ranges from 3,000 to 20,000, which is made worse by staff shortage.
A delay in updating data pertaining to collection of property tax has also been a cause of concern among assessees.
Recently, a server problem also caused a breakdown of tax collection services through hand-held machines for a few days.
Even though residents in all 15 zones can now pay their property taxes online, the percentage of such assessees is low.
Nearly 10.71 lakh assessees, including thousands of non-resident Indians who own properties in the city, can use the online facility, but it is currently used only by around 10 per cent of assesses, say officials.
Server problems a stumbling block
However, server problems that crop up sporadically have been a stumbling block for printing of receipts after online payments, say assessees.
Corporation officials hope that the town criers will pave their way towards achieving their goal — prompt payment of taxes by all residents.