The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Billboard fee for signboards
- Mayor slaps visual tax on shops promoting products

The huge signboard displaying brand items at the neighbourhood paan shop may not come cheap for major companies any more. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to levy billboard charges on shop-owners who wish to put up signboards promoting brand items atop their stores. The mention of the name and address of the shop will, however, remain free.

Expecting to mop up revenue for the cash-strapped civic body, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has directed municipal commissioner Debashis Som to draw up a list of such shops with signboards and send them demand notices. Shop-owners who fail to cough up the charges will have their signboards pulled down.

The rate for such signboards, to be calculated on the basis of square-foot area, will be equivalent to that of billboards. Charges for glosigns and neon signs will be higher.

According to civic estimates, the drive is likely to generate an additional visual tax of Rs 20 crore. The CMC earns Rs 3 crore annually by letting out space for 500 billboards across the city.

“Of the more than 10 lakh shops located across the city, at least 40 per cent have signboards promoting products of some brand,” pointed out the mayor.

“This is an indirect way by which big companies dodge visual tax. It can be allowed only against a payment of visual tax to the CMC,” he stressed. “In most cases, the clutter of signboards promoting spices to cosmetics, cigarettes to breweries has, in fact, eclipsed the names of shops.”

The companies just need to shoulder a negligible cost for putting up the signboards, while the advertisement comes for free. They will have to invest a hundred times more if they want to reap the benefits of a billboard, the mayor explained. “It is time companies started paying for the mileage they are enjoying. The drive will start very soon,” he asserted.

The CMC collects charges on square-foot basis from advertising agencies for billboards. Charges are also levied on the display of commercial banners at puja pandals, said the mayor.

Only a thousand billboards of more than 2,500 in the city are legal. More than 66 per cent of them are on private land, said a civic official.

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