Following complaints from several residents against revision of property tax by the Greater Chennai Corporation [GCC] for the period 2017-18, in addition to the general revision for the period 2018-19, the Motilal Street Residents’ Welfare Association approached officials to ascertain the reasons for such selective revision for some properties. This revision of tax for the period 2017-18 was implemented along with the general revision for the period 2018-19.
We were told that the revision for 2017-18 was on account of the change in the occupancy of the premises — that is from owner to tenant. However, upon analysis of the revision, we found that many premises occupied by the owners themselves have been designated as ‘tenanted’ and tax for those revised. When this was pointed out to the officials, there was no reply.
Online complaint and follow up
We then made an online complaint to the GCC. After going through the complaint, the Assessor, in his post, has stated that the aggrieved resident should visit the zonal office and submit the documents including a copy of the Encumbrance Certificate (EC), EB Card, planning permission, gas bill and photo copy.
It is quite surprising that officials need residents to submit documents like EC, planning permissions etc to prove that he is the owner. When the premises are in the name of the owner as per GCC records, and the demand notices are sent to him as well, what more proof do authorities need and why? Residents also wonder if the GCC has categorised the premises as ‘tenanted,’ even after checking these documents.
The residents have a right to know how the GCC has gone about the job to ascertain whether the premises are occupied by the owner himself, or a tenant, and the documents on which they have relied to levy the tax for 2017-18. The official’s post seeking documents to prove one’s ownership of the premises also reeks of an intent to harass honest tax payers.
Identification mechanism flawed?
It may be pertinent to mention that the GCC, while revising the property tax for the period 2018-19 after 20 years at the insistence of the Madras High Court, had categorically stated that it had already identified the properties with suppression in area and errors in calculation (when tax was fixed earlier), and that these have now been rectified. The GCC has further stated with a tinge of magnanimity that though it has all the powers to recover dues in respect of any under-assessments identified, it has refrained from doing so while effecting general revision.
In view of the GCC’s decision not to levy arrears for the past under-assessments/errors in calculation/suppression in the area, why has it retracted from its stand and decided to increase property tax, and that too on its own presumption that the premises have been rented out?
Furthermore, considering that the tax is on the property itself, how does it matter if it is occupied by the owner or the tenant? The levy of the property tax should be non-discriminatory and non-discretionary.
To address the grievance of those owners who have withheld the payment of tax for the period 2017-18, the GCC must revoke the said revision in full. The GCC must act on this without further involving the residents and demanding documentation.
More than two weeks since the filing of the online complaint and approaching the authorities concerned, there has been no follow up or communication from the GCC. We have had to repeatedly seek appointments to meet with officials to make our case against this arbitrary revision of property tax. While authorities have promised to rectify the issue, no action has been taken so far. With more instances of overcharging coming to light, it would be prudent of the authorities to clear the air on methods followed to revise the property tax.