For house-owners, it’s an autumn bonanza. An amendment to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) Act of 1980 appears imminent, spreading the rebate on property tax over the entire quarter (three months).
Presently, rebate facilities are allowed on property tax if paid within 15 days of the bill being raised. But the scheme is posing a problem for government offices, who pay through the pay and accounts department.
Most often, when a government office forwards a CMC tax bill to the pay and accounts department, it takes the department more than 15 days to draw up the cheque. When the cheque finally reaches the CMC counter, civic officials refuse to accept the amount, as the rebate period has elapsed.
“The CMC charges interest and penalty on property tax if not paid within the quarter, then why shouldn’t a house-owner enjoy a rebate facility for the entire quarter'” asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Because of the 15-day time bar, the CMC’s suspense account was getting heavier by the day, he pointed out.
In the city, house-owners are in a sweat over being slapped with an arrear property-tax demand notice from the CMC. Some have been asked to pay arrears of 25 years ago. And the CMC is charging interest and penalty on the principal arrear amount.
Earlier, the municipal commissioner, under Section 192 of the CMC Act, could allow benefit of doubt to a house-owner on the payment of interest and penalty on property tax outstanding for 12 years or more.
Rampant misuse of the power by a former deputy municipal commissioner (revenue) to slash the Rs 90-lakh arrears of a multi-star hotel to Rs 13 lakh in the early 1990s forced then municipal commissioner Asim Barman to drop the section.
In the present system, the accumulated total of interest and penalty on an arrear amount equals the principal amount of every 12 years. So, for tax dues of Rs 25,000, the CMC issues a demand notice of Rs 1 lakh. Some house-owners have even received a demand notice for Rs 5 lakh.
In most of the cases, pointed out a senior assistant inspector, the dues were reflected in the register because payment made by a house-owner 20 or 25 years ago had not been recorded by the civic employees.
If a house-owner has not preserved his payment receipts, he is in trouble and will have to cough up the dues with interest and penalty for the period for which he cannot produce documents.