Mr. Commissioner, help property tax payers!

There are many problems faced by those who want to pay taxes in time.

The BBMP Tax Collection System is in shambles. Neither the help centres nor the online system is user friendly. I am listing below the various problems faced by tax payers.

1. Application Forms not properly worded. The depreciation clause in the ‘Instructions to Tax Payers’ booklet should be clear as to where and how to apply this clause. The tax calculated for 2009-10 will not be the same as in 2008-09, if this clause is applied as per its real meaning. It will be higher because of the use of ‘Net Taxable Annual Value’ without depreciation for the subsequent years in the block period.

However, all Help Centers have been instructed to collect the same tax as in 2008-09 for subsequent years. When I contacted the former District Commissioner (Revenue) Vasanth Rao on phone last year and later the present incumbent Chandrasekar personally for clarification, I was advised to deduct any excess amount paid in 2009-10 in the application form of 2010-11 under Page 4,Part II ,11 (n).

This information should be shared with all tax payers, so that those who have paid excess amount are not put into inconveniences. The Tax Inspectors and staff members in each Help Center / Assistant Revenue Officers (ARO’s) should be instructed in writing. By collecting the same tax for all the three years, BBMP is flouting its own clause. Probably, the clause should actually read as "No increase in Depreciation Rate is admissible within the next two years of the block period".

Can anyone give an explanation of this clause and where it is applied?

2. The Help Centres are not manned by responsible officers who should clarify the doubts of the public. The staff members are busy in filling up the forms for applicants (earning some pocket money on the side). The public who have filled up the forms themselves have to wait for a long time to get their applications accepted. Why can’t there be counters and queue systems in place?

3. The computers installed in many of the centres are not operational due to lack of proper cubicles, power availability, knowledgeable staff to operate and issue receipts on the spot. To collect the receipts, you have to visit the centres several times and waste a lot of time waiting.

4. Plain Forms IV or V are not available for downloading in the online system, unless you have your previous SAS application numbers. Even if you do, you often get a response ‘no record is available’. Even if you do get the details, the entries may be wrong. The mistake is because data is entered by the centres based on what you had specified in your application. If you had made a mistake in the calculations due to misleading clauses, there is no way to rectify it and you are told to pay the higher amount for the 3rd year, same as that paid in 2nd year.

Since there is no change for users of white color forms, the computation reference for 2010-11 should be only from 2008-09 and not from 2009-10. If you do not possess a credit card, and submits the printed version of the online format, it may not be accepted by Help Centres. You are asked to use the form available with them. Many of those who paid the tax online, do not get receipts but notice of non-payment!

5. Ward numbers, names and are details have changed from 2008-09. But the records still use the old ward numbers. It is difficult or not possible to get the tax record if one does not know under which ward and address, his data has been recorded. This problem is worse for residents of new wards added to BBMP.

The software needs a total review taking into account all the above problems. Practical examples should be worked out to find any slip-ups and corrective measures should be taken up.

The Commissioner should make surprise visits to Help Centres without being accompanied by any official or prior intimation, to learn about the system failures and poor tax collection. He should set up a grievance committee of honest officials to look into the problems faced by the public and settle the grievances on the spot. Presently nobody knows whom to approach to complain and settle the issues.

I hope that at least from the year 2011-12 onwards, all the anomalies are cleared, the tax collection system overhauled and a mechanism created to attend and solve the issues faced by the public.  

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