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Civic body at doorstep to collect property tax

- Ad hoc staff to augment Darjeeling revenue

Darjeeling, Aug. 14: Darjeeling municipality has started visiting each and every household in town to collect property tax, instead of waiting for residents to come to its office and pay up, with an eye on augmenting revenue.

The drive named, Municipality Service at Your Doorstep, started a couple of days back with youths appointed by the civic body visiting houses in wards 1 and 17.

The civic body has appointed 32 youths on a contractual basis for each of the 32 wards to collect tax and compile data on the total number of houses in town.

Subhomoy Chatterjee, commissioner in-charge of the tax department at the civic body, said: “There are 9,996 registered holdings (houses) under Darjeeling municipality. Only around 3,500 pay the yearly tax on a regular basis. We are supposed to collect around Rs 2.5 crore as property tax but our collection is only about Rs 1.3 crore annually.”

He said there were around 80,000 houses in the municipality area. “Although many properties might not be registered, the municipality is providing facilities, in terms of clearing garbage and other services, to them,” said Chatterjee. “Many buildings that have come up on forest, PWD or vested land, have not been registered. During the drive, data on houses would also be collected.”

Each of the 32 youths, who have been appointed for a monthly reimbursement of Rs 2,000 each, would visit every household in town. “They will carry a receipt book and if owners are willing to pay tax on the spot, they can do so,” said Chatterjee.

The youths would have identity cards and authorisation letters issued by the municipality and they will note down details about mutation deeds, water connection, electricity connection and other information.

One can also pay tax at the municipality office.

Sources said the civic body could collect about Rs 6 crore a year if all taxes were paid.

Property tax is levied at Rs 2.50 per square feet per annum. “It is the minimum rate. The rate fluctuates depending on the quality of construction,” said Chatterjee.

Civic authorities said the total annual expenditure on salaries, wages for daily workers, gratuity and a portion of pension was Rs 1.02 crore.

“We have to pay 20 per cent of the salaries (the rest is paid by the state) of 456 permanent employees. We do not get any help to pay the 193 daily workers who get Rs 75 a day,” said a municipality official.

The municipality also generates revenue from water tax, zamindary department, trade license and mutation fee.