After the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) announced an amnesty scheme in a bid to recover Rs 494 crore tax dues, it has emerged that the major defaulters are central and state government departments, nationalised banks, big private companies, builders and clubs. RMC standing committee chairman Pushkar Patel had announced a scheme to partially waive off interest on accumulated property taxes owned by 1.39 lakh individuals and entities in the city. The waiver is 100 per cent if the interest on tax is up to Rs 25,000 and 15 per cent if the interest is Rs 2 lakh. Patel had said that the scheme was aimed reaching one-time settlement with the defaulters before new tax calculation system based on carpet area is introduced in April 2018.
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Data accessed by The Indian Express show that Western Railways (WR), Public Works Department (PWD) of the Gujarat government, nationalised banks, private companies such as Avenue Supermarts Ltd and a number of top builders were in the list of defaulters. According to the data, the Rajkot Division of WR owes Rs 12.23 crore in taxes to the RMC and tops the list of defaulters. Avenue Supermarts Ltd owes the civic body Rs 3.21 crore in taxes for its D-Mart store on Gondal Road.
While the PWD, which owns and maintains the state government quarters in the city, has cumulative tax dues of Rs 4 crore, State Bank of Hyderabad has outstanding property tax dues of Rs 1.84 crore for its branch on Kalavad Road. The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) had Rs 1.24 crore tax dues towards RMC for its central bus station in the city. Telecom company Bharati Celluar Limited has Rs 28.69 lakh tax overdue.
City-based builders Madhav Construction (Rs 17.22 lakh), Avrest Builders (Rs 16.31 lakh), Jalaram Developers (Rs 32.95 lakh) are also on the list of property owners whose taxes are overdue. Rajkot Gymkhana Club too owes more than Rs 1 crore to the RMC towards taxes for hoarding boards it has set up. A few of the defaulters have moved courts also. Some of the disputes have been settled, while others are pending. A senior officer of Rajkot division of WR said the department has already made partial payment. “The matter had gone to the Supreme Court and now, we are working out an arrangement with the RMC. As a central government organisation, we are not liable to pay any taxes to local bodies. But the RMC is demanding service charges from us,” said the officer.
RMC officers confirm that the Rajkot division of WR had paid Rs 14 lakh as ad hock payment of taxes for the last financial year. Gymkhana Club, on the other hand, said it had sought revision of the tax demand. “The RMC is seeking taxes for hoarding boards that we have set up and have rented out. But, their calculation is faulty. Once this issue is resolved, we shall pay taxes,” said Jaydeep Vora, an executive committee member of the club. Avenue Supermarts representatives said the matter was being handled by their corporate office in Mumbai. However, RMC officers said the civic body has moved the court for recovering the dues. “Reliance (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group) used to own that property previously, and it had some outstanding tax dues. Later, Avenue Supermarts purchased that property. We have moved the court against both entities for recovery of the total outstanding taxes,” said a top civic officer.
Haresh Kagathara, assistant municipal commissioner, said: “The RMC is in the process of signing a MoU with the WR as directed by the Supreme Court. We have agreed to levy service charge to WR at 50 per cent of property tax. Similarly, some banks have also partially cleared their tax dues.”