The government has proposed a tax hike from 1 to 25 percent to address the furor over property taxes in urban areas. The municipality can increase the tax by up to 25 percent as per the requirement for the current rate of property tax collected. However, instead of collecting tax every month for garbage disposal, there is also the benefit of collecting the Swachh Bharat levy along with property tax and giving it to municipalities. The tax rate of the Swachh Bharat levy will be decided by the municipality alone.
On Monday, Urban Development Minister Ashok Singhal said this decision was taken in a meeting with six anti-regime legislators of the Assembly. Due to an arbitrary increase in property taxes by the municipality, Congress MLA Kamalakshya Dey Purkayastha raised ‘Zero Hour’ in the Assembly today. However, after receiving the zero-hour notice, the departmental minister took the initiative to address the discontent over property tax. So he called a meeting with six MLAs from the urban area. Apart from Kamalakshaya, the remaining five are MLAs of the ruling party.
Each municipality has now started the process of raising taxes by reassessing citizens’ properties based on government directives. As per the law, the revalued property is taxed at a rate of 7.5 percent. But the property tax of 10 thousand rupees per year has increased to 8 to 4 thousand rupees. The tax amount of 6 thousand rupees has become 64 thousand rupees. However, each municipality has a different property tax rate. But the sudden increase in municipal property taxes has caused intense discontent in urban areas. Not only in Karimganj, Silchar, Nagaon, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, and other big cities, there is anger among the people.
However, Urban Development Minister Singhal said in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday that the state has 102 municipalities. But there are many municipalities where citizens have not had their property assessed since birth. Pathshala, Gohpur, Naharkatiya, Tiak, Shilapathar, Sonari, Gauripur, etc. Municipalities are not assessed nor is property tax collected. Property assessment was done in other municipalities, but it was done thirty to forty years ago. According to the law, the tax rate has to be reassessed every five years after the assessment of the property. But that has not been done for many years.
The minister said, ‘The last assessment was done in Dibrugarh Municipality in 1984. The property was last assessed in 2013 in Silchar, 1998 in Jorhat, 1991 in Shivsagar, and 1987 in Kokrajhar. It hasn’t been done since. As a result, municipalities could not become self-sufficient. Everything from workers’ salaries to street lights has to be looked at by the government. If the government doesn’t give money, the lights don’t turn on in the streets of the city. But municipalities are supposed to become self-reliant from tax collection as self-governing institutions.”
As a result of the non-re-assessment, he presented the information: ‘In the case of a house of 1000 square feet, the annual property tax is Tk 2,400 in Digad, Tk 18,506 in Tinsukia, Tk 11,600 in Jorhat, Tk 3,500 in Bangaigaon, Tk 2 in Goalpara, 200 taka, 7,600 taka in Moran, and 420 taka in Mariyani.’ Therefore, the minister said that each municipality will have the freedom to increase taxes by reassessing properties in accordance with the reform directives of the Center. However, according to the decision of the meeting with six legislators, the municipalities have been asked to increase the tax from one to twenty-five percent on the existing property tax.
However, if a municipality wants to collect taxes at a higher rate than this, it has to send a proposal to the government and get approval. The property tax will be Rs 1000 per annum (RCC) in case of houses built under the rule of financially weaker class housing and Rs 500 in case of Assam type houses. The minister asked the MLAs to see that the municipality runs well. He also informed them about the approval of the master plan of each municipality.
The urban development minister said, ‘The municipality will no longer have to collect fees every month for the removal of domestic garbage. Municipalities can collect Swachh Bharat Mandal only with property tax. However, the Swachh Bharat toll rate will be decided by the municipality. He also said to start a solid waste management project in every municipality. Land has been allotted in 102 municipalities for this purpose. The “Solid Waste Management Project’ will start this year to remove the accumulated garbage.
There will be a single ‘by-law’ for the construction of buildings across the state. The government has already approved it. Apart from this, permission for the construction of buildings will also be taken online from now on. In the case of G+2 buildings, permission will be granted immediately upon application. However, there is some difficulty in collecting building permits online due to server issues. Soon it will be possible to overcome that problem, said the urban development minister.