Property tax collection is going digital. As property tax collections become critical to urban local bodies to shore up their finances, civic bodies are mapping properties using technology extensively. The uses range from identifying unassessed or under-assessed properties, integrating this data with data for other utilities and moving to a system of real-time tracking of properties to prevent illegal constructions.
Municipal corporations across the country are adopting technology to improve the efficiency of collection by using satellite images, drone surveys, geographical information systems, data, cloud, and analytics to plug leakages and shore up their finances.
Some of these successful projects were showcased by municipal commissioners at the G-20 seminar on Urban Infrastructure organised by the Department of Economic Affairs, Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture, Pune International Centre and Pune Municipal Corporations in Pune.
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Raipur Municipal Corporation is dependent on property tax as the largest source of revenues and the fiscal stress due to Covid made it important to increase stagnant property tax collection without increasing taxation but by increasing full coverage.
Mayank Chaturvedi, municipal commissioner of Raipur, said they wanted to remove inefficiencies and loopholes so moved from a manual to a GIS-based decision support system for property tax collections. This involved GIS-based drone surveys, digitisation of old records, door-to-door surveys of properties to enable the capture of the entire property details using mobile apps, improve categorisation of property and have an online property tax collection system.
Raipur has gone a step ahead and adopted a QR-based Unique Digital Door Number (DDN). Chaturvedi said this would provide a unique smart sequential addressing solution for each property or establishment. This DDN would be used for future integration and municipal revenue generation programmes. It would enable easier identification of illegal construction, regulate unauthorised construction, address citizen grievances and smoother citizen services ranging from mobility to last-mile delivery, this would provide an easy navigation tool for emergency services and other command centres.
According to Chaturvedi, the technology upgrade enabled a 53% rise in registered properties from 1.9 lakh in 2012-18 to 2.9 lakh in 2021-22 and a 96% rise in property tax demand from Rs 114.4 crore to Rs 224 crore. Tax collections have gone up from Rs 107.12 crore to Rs 183 crore. The daily collections went up from Rs 2 lakh per day to Rs 8-9 lakh per day.
Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) used a similar technology path to improve property tax collection by increasing the number of properties and reducing the dependence on grants and government receipts. Property tax collections are critical for the GCC with an annual budget of Rs 6,000 crore.
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Vishnu Mahajan, deputy commissioner, GCC, said they used drone-based imagery, and GIS imaging to identify unassessed and under-assessed properties. This exercise led to the identification of 3,51,000 properties. Tax demand went up from Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,552 crore. They are now floating tenders inviting vendors who will reassess the property. GCC will be looking at a property tax collection of Rs 1,800 crore this year compared to Rs 854 crore last year. They are reassessing 13,00,000 properties and integrating them with other databases. Take for example this integration with the electricity board database revealed 45,000 commercial properties that were being assessed at residential rates and this leakage has been plugged.
Chennai has among the lowest property tax rates among major Indian cities and they were able to increase property tax collection without having to raise property taxes, Mahajan said.