HYDERABAD: It seems government departments are not far behind in evading taxes if a piece of information furnished by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is anything to go by.
According to information obtained by an RTI activist, the state government has to clear a whopping Rs 5,258 crore pertaining to property tax in the city. This apart, an amount of Rs 306 crore property tax is due from state government undertakings. The amounts are pending from one year to 25 years.
The GHMC commissioner D.S. Lokesh Kumar, in his reply to the query, mentioned that he was regularly pursuing the matter by issuing demand notices to the heads of the departments (HoDs) of various departments, but in vain. The GHMC allegedly removed access to online list of defaulters on instructions of higher authorities. More than 40 per cent of taxpayers from six zones evade tax.
Out of 14 lakh property taxpayers, 5.7 lakh residents avoid payment of taxes. Most top defaulters are residents of prime locations, including Jubilee Hills, Banjara Hills and other areas in the central zone.
Apart from this, the medical department has to clear Rs 1,185 crore property tax dues, which has been pending for the past 23 years, the police department has to clear Rs 420 crore property tax, prohibition and excise department (which provides a revenue of Rs 55,000 crores annually) has been due Rs 895 crore for 21 years, education department is due Rs 385 crore for 16 years and likewise the pending property tax of government buildings amounts to Rs 5,258.40 crore and 30 state public undertaking buildings including Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB), Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL), TSRTC, Transco and Zoo Park have to clear Rs 306.28 crore property taxes which have been pending for one to seven financial years. On the flipside, the civic body has surpassed the highest ever property tax collections during the early bird scheme.
As against the last year collection of Rs 541 crore in April-May 2021, the civic body has collected about Rs 750 crore apart from an annual property tax of Rs 1,495.29 crore in the financial year 2021-22.
While the corporation has been humiliating the honest taxpayers if they fail to clear pending dues on time, it has been conveniently turning Nelson's eye to the state government buildings apart from top defaulters.
Activist M. Padmanabha Reddy pointed out that the main revenue of local bodies comes from taxes. He said property tax levied by the GHMC on the properties owned by citizens is regularly paid by them. In the month of April 2022, the GHMC announced an “early bird” scheme providing a 5 per cent rebate on taxes paid in April.
“There was tremendous response from people, as against the target of Rs 600 crore, close to Rs 750 crores was collected. This speaks that as law abiding citizens, they are paying taxes so that the GHMC provides them civic amenities. When it comes to payment of taxes on government properties, the government is not paying the due taxes and setting a bad example,” he pointed out. “The state government is virtually starving the GHMC. Firstly, by not paying due taxes and secondly by not releasing funds as recommended by the State Finance Commission, resulting in the GHMC not able to provide basic civic needs and has become a dummy organisation,” he added....