Spy in the sky for tax officials

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By BIBHUTI BARIK
  • Published 23.08.10
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Bhubaneswar, Aug. 22: Property tax in the state capital would be assessed on the basis of a city map, drawn with the help of satellite images to enable authorities to monitor tax collection and curb corruption.

In this method, each house or dwelling unit would be considered as a unit and according to its location, approach, size and civic amenities, the value of its property tax would be accessed.

However, to avoid any confusion, the whole process would be monitored through images captured by satellites so that the officials of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), equipped with remote sensing technology, can get to know whether the owner of the property is paying the right amount of tax.

Speaking at a programme, principal secretary, housing and urban development Arun Kumar Panda said: “The photographs generated through high-resolution satellite images will be fed into computers to know the exact nature, size and location of the property. The resolution of the satellite camera would be enough to detect an object of the size of half a metre. After the images are obtained, the BMC officials will also do physical inspection to compare the data.”

“For urban infrastructure development, substantial amount of funds must be generated locally. However, it is seen that 30 to 60 per cent of urban properties are not at all assessed. Using the satellite imagery and geographic information system (GIS), authorities would know the exact value of the property and ensure that its owners pay accordingly,” Panda said at a workshop on Dynamics of urban governance – Orissa.

He also said that the tax collection system would be web-based so that people could pay their taxes and other dues online.

The official said that a study conducted in the municipalities of Berhampur, Cuttack and Puri had revealed that owners of “many structures are not in the holding tax net. There is a sizeable group which is paying less tax than what they should”.

“As the system is web-based, one will know what the owner is paying for the property and what others are paying,” he said while pointing out that if taxpayers had the right links with the civic authorities, they could get away with anything. “Such people pay less tax for bigger properties. This web-based system will make the system transparent,” said Panda.

The project would be implemented in a phased manner. It would start within a year once the detailed project report is ready.

“We will give property owners the option to make voluntary disclosures. People failing to do so will be fined,” he said.

A senior BMC official, who was also present at the workshop, admitted that there were major violations in tax collection. A recent survey indicated that only 70,000 of 2 lakh houses in the city paid property tax. Considering that the city has 60,000 slums, nearly 70,000 house owners were not paying any tax.

The vice-chairman of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority, Deoranjan Kumar Singh, said: “Use of GIS-based technology is incorporated in the comprehensive development plan for the city developed by IIT, Kharagpur.”