Calcutta, Jan. 13: The season of spreading good cheer travelled down to Calcutta today from poll-mode Delhi with the mayor announcing an across-the-board cut in property tax and an end to inspector raj.
In a never-before tax reform exercise, the Trinamul Congress-run board at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation took a Rs 38-crore revenue hit as the cost of the “feel-good” party.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, however, hoped to bridge the gap by as much as Rs 30 crore, believing that the cut would encourage defaulters to pay up.
The changes will be ratified at a CMC meeting on January 21. Mukherjee said he had taken state municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya into confidence.
Refusing to term the relief a pre-poll sop (the civic elections are due a year later), the mayor said the changes — though revolutionary — had failed to satisfy him. Property tax in other cities, like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, is still a lot less than what it will be in Calcutta even after the cut.
“I want to bring the tax down to a level that exists everywhere else and, simultaneously, widen the net,” Mukherjee said.
The tax regime does away with the practice of CMC inspectors knocking on citizens’ doors every six years when a minimum hike of 10 per cent in property valuation falls due.
Those lucky to escape this customary dose of harassment could be nastily surprised by the arrival of supplementary bills as the CMC has never had enough inspectors to do the re-valuation regularly.
Now, valuation will go up automatically every year at a constant rate of 1.5 per cent.
Owners of houses will get a relief of 10 per cent, paying 30 per cent of the valuation as annual tax, instead of the earlier 40. For owners of flats (with and without tenants), the relief will be similar.
Owners of commercial units will get even more relief. Their property tax — 60 per cent of the annual valuation — will come down by 17 per cent. Those having vacant land adjoining their houses and those who are yet to build a structure on their plots will pay a lot less.
The last two categories abound in the CMC’s added areas where pressure from the party forced the mayor to give more.
The rate of penal interest for non-payment has also been revised. The current rate is 18 per cent for an annual valuation over Rs 1 lakh and the new level will be 6 per cent plus the prime lending rate (currently 10.25) of the State Bank in the respective year. For a valuation below Rs 1 lakh, instead of 12 per cent, the new rate will be 3 per cent plus the prime lending rate.