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Tax pinches Alimuddin

- Biman seeks review of CMC levy

An annual property tax hike of Rs 5,632 has prompted the CPM to write to the Trinamul-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation for a review of the levy, belying its status in Mamata Banerjee’s eyes as one of the country’s richest parties.

A letter from state CPM secretary Biman Bose, dated November 21 and addressed to the chief manager (revenue) of the CMC, states that no commercial activity takes place at the party headquarters at 31 Alimuddin Street.

“I (would) like to let you know that this premises is solely used for the purpose of day-to-day functioning of (the) West Bengal State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)…. The activities of the party are non-commercial in nature,” Bose writes in response to a notice from the civic body on October 24.

The Muzaffar Ahmed Memorial Trust owns the four-storey property in the heart of the city.

A senior official of the civic body said the Alimuddin Street premises of the party that ruled Bengal for 34 years was not the only one to face a property tax hike. “The assessment department revises the annual valuation of all properties in the city every six years. It is called general revaluation in civic body parlance. The process is presently underway in boroughs VI and VII,” he said.

Based on the formula for general revaluation (see box), the annual tax on the Alimuddin Street property will increase from Rs 35,200 to Rs 40,832, translating into a 16 per cent rise.

The new rate will be applicable from the second quarter of 2006-07, which means the party will have to shell out more than Rs 33,000 extra.

The CMC rulebook allows taxpayers a hearing before the new rates take effect. The civic body had apparently requested a representative of the CPM to be present at a hearing slated for November 21, but nobody turned up. “We received the letter instead,” said an official. “A new date for the hearing will be fixed soon.”

Councillor Rupa Bagchi of the CPM, who is the leader of the Opposition in the Trinamul-run civic body, smelt a political conspiracy in the property tax hike. “It is the practice to offer tax relief to non-profit trusts. The new civic board has raised tax on the CPM headquarters with a political motive,” she said.

Bagchi failed to explain what the civic body would achieve by raising the annual tax by Rs 5,632.

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said he did not have any role to play in the recalculation of tax. “The mayor has no role in it. In the event of a dispute, officers fix the amount after giving the owner a hearing,” he explained.

Records available with the assessment department reveal that the civic body has also raised the property tax on the Trinamul headquarters at 36G Topsia Road. The Grassroot Welfare Trust that owns the property will have to pay Rs 4,032 extra every year.

Trinamul’s annual tax burden for that property has increased by around 16 per cent, from Rs 24,800 to Rs 28,832.

According to councillor Bagchi, the tax hike should not have been more than 10 per cent for Alimuddin Street as no addition or alteration had been made to the building.

CPM secretary Bose makes the same point in his letter. “No development, addition, alteration or improvement has been done except time to time repairing and essential maintenance. There is no change of use. I, therefore, on behalf of the trustee request you to consider the above aspect and fix the annual valuation,” he writes.