Central Govt. offices default on property tax

HYDERABAD July 3. The Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) is faced with a piquant situation in realisation of tax dues, particularly from Central Government properties, in the City. The arrears from at least 30 properties belonging to various Central Government departments and research institutions run into several crores.

The Corporation has taken a serious view of the mounting dues and is thinking of attaching properties. Under section 269 of the HMC Act, it is empowered to take this step against anyone consistently failing to pay dues. The MCH has dashed off letters to the Railways, Department of Posts, BSNL and other departments stating that it would be constrained to go strictly by law if dues are not cleared.

SCR tops the list of defaulters. Since there is a dispute between MCH and SCR over payment of service charges, the matter has been referred to the Railway Ministry. No reply was received as yet. The Department of Posts owes Rs. 92.78 lakhs for 18 properties and the BSNL Rs. 4.12 crores for the year 2001-2002. These departments did not pay property tax in full, year before last too. The State Government normally pays property tax of Rs. 17.46 crores in four quarters. But till June 30 it had not paid its first quarter due of Rs. 4.36 crores.

The MCH has targeted to collect Rs. 150 crores this year as against Rs. 130 crores last year. So far it was able to realise Rs. 8 crores. This time around it has decided to despatch demand bills to taxpayers by July second week. It plans to send bills through a private agency and not the Postal Department as last year there were complaints of non-receipt of bills.

The MCH plans to increase its tax base by ensuring that all properties hitherto not assessed or under assessed were properly taxed and has decided to deploy bill collectors for the same. They would concentrate mostly on broadening the tax base and recovery of tax from commercial properties. "We want residential property owners to pay taxes through e-seva centres," said Rajendra Nimje, Additional Commissioner, Finance, MCH.

He said the Corporation was also trying to recover money locked in litigation. At least 1,500 cases have been pending in courts for years. Apart from individuals, many hospitals and educational institutions have approached court questioning the tax levied by MCH. Some have refused to pay vacant land tax. To expedite such cases and realise whatever possible, the MCH wants to go for an out of the court settlement by referring all disputes to the Lok Adalat.

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