The alleged inertia of the Revenue Department in expediting building tax collection is depriving income worth crores of rupees due to the government.

The Revenue Department has been designated to levy a one-time tax from every new building and an annual luxury tax from buildings having a built-up area above 3,000 sq.ft. Residential buildings with a built up area up to 1,000 sq. ft. have been exempted from the one-time tax.

A preliminary official estimation has pegged the tax arrears from Thiruvananthapuram taluk alone at around Rs.100 crore and that shows the potential of revenue collection in this score.

Of the 63 taluks in the State, more than 40 taluks are witnessing a construction boom, but the tax collection in this head is much below the average.

Official sources told The Hindu here that the Revenue Department is sitting on a proposal mooted for timely assessment and preventing the revenue drain.

Recovery cells

The revenue recovery cells in the department, which have virtually become defunct due to a variety of reasons, can be converted into building tax collection units and linked with the local self-governments. Since the government is issuing stay orders on recovering tax arrears due from various sources under political pressure, the cells have virtually become redundant.

The conversion of the cells would ease the burden of the local body personnel in assessing the buildings and also settling the complaints about tax assessment in a time-bound manner. Though the government has prescribed norms for fixing the tax for buildings in different categories, complaints too are aplenty about the yardstick being adopted for fixing the rates.

Builders complain that the officials are fixing the tax rates in an arbitrary manner and that their grievances often go unheard.

The system in vogue for finalising the rates has also come in for criticism.

The disputes between the officials and the building owners over the tax assessment often end up in litigation and revenue due to the government gets entangled in stay orders. In the absence of specific initiatives for resolving the disputes either through arbitration or vacating the stay orders through a legal process, the arrears keep on mounting.

Even when the State was passing through a severe financial crisis affecting even the disbursal of salary and pensions, the government had not taken any step so far for clearing the hassles in collecting the building tax, sources said.

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