House-owners will no longer be at the mercy of civic inspectors who decide on property tax according to their whims.
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has laid down concrete guidelines for calculating the tax for individual houses, residential estates and commercial establishments. The system will come into effect from April 1.
The criteria fixed by the CMC include the width of the road and the pavement on which a building stands, availability of filtered surface water, distance from the underground sewer, condition of street lights and the proximity to healthcare facilities and educational institutions.
The more civic amenities a house-owner enjoys, the more will be the tax.
In the present system, the civic body imposes property tax on the basis of the “notional rent value” of a building, which is calculated arbitrarily. Civic inspectors and clerks are often accused of fudging figures if house-owners refuse to bribe them.
There have been instances of the owner of a flat in central Calcutta shelling out less tax than the owner of a similar flat on the fringes.
“I think the new system of calculating area-wise property tax is more scientific and rational,” said mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. “It will also reduce the tax burden on several house-owners.”
The tax regime, he added, has to be implemented from the next financial year, “in accordance with our agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB)”.
One of the five conditions set by the bank before granting a $220-million loan to the CMC in December 2001 for the Calcutta Environment Improvement Project (CEIP) was that a property tax system acceptable to it be enforced by 2003-04. The deadline was later extended.
“We have asked the state government to set up a municipal valuation committee for revising the tax structure based on the new parameters,” said municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
Amar Mitra, of the All Calcutta House Owners’ Association, welcomed the area-wise tax structure, but opposed the CMC’s logic that people in developed pockets should pay more tax. “It should be the other way round: Residents of less-developed areas should pay more, as the CMC will need funds to set up infrastructure there,” he argued.