Owning properties in Punjab will be all the more taxing, though there’s some respite for the defaulters. Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday gave its stamp of approval to the two bills, among the total six bills passed, on imposing property tax on all properties in the State.
However, the State Government reduced the penalty from 100 per cent to 20 per cent in case no return is filed for that financial year by March 31. Also, the Government announced two-month extension for providing deduction on the annual property tax amount only if it is deposited by November 30, this year only, and by September 30 every financial year, by 10 per cent as ‘early payment rebate’.
The respite was announced on the floor of the House by Local Bodies Minister Anil Joshi, while replying to the arguments raised by the MLAs during the discussion on the Bills — The Punjab Municipal (Amendment) Bill, 2013, and The Punjab Municipal Corporation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013.
Claiming that the property tax, forced upon by the Congress led Central Government, was the minimum in Punjab in comparison to other states, Joshi said that the state government has provided exemptions to various categories and effort was made to keep the rate as minimum as possible. He blamed Congress leader for misleading the people are creating wrong impression on the collector’s rate being high. The Bill provides exemption of Rs 5,000 annually to widows, and handicapped persons, complete exemption to freedom fighters receiving government pension, and the below poverty line card-holder people.
Besides, cremation grounds, gaushalas, historical and heritage buildings, educational institutions, hospitals or dispensaries, agricultural land, among others have also been exempted. Dubbing it as “kala kanoon”, Congress MLA from Batala Ashwani Sekhri maintained that the SAD-BJP alliance was misleading the people by pointing fingers towards the Centre for forcing them to impose the property tax to get central grants.
“The Jawahar Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), under which the Government is claiming to have been asked to impose tax, lapsed long before. The current scheme, Rajiv Aawas Yojna, has no such condition for releasing central grants,” he added. He also demanded to remove the clause of seeking no stay on the tax, attachment of property if tax not paid, and also opposed the clause of entertaining appeal only if tax has been filed.
Earlier, BJP MLA Manoranjan Kalia too pointed out that the clause of ‘no stay’ is against the law, and demanded to form a committee to access the bill again. Congress MLA Brahm Mohindra pointed that though the State Government declared to start GIS mapping of the State to access the number of buildings and plots to evaluate the total tax, “there is no system in place”.
SAD MLA Daljit Singh Cheema highlighted how the Centre arm twisted the Punjab Government to impose the tax by holding back several grants citing communications between the Centre and the State. “Union Urban Development Ministry warned the State to impose property tax to get the central grants. Finance Commission stopped Rs 134 crore performance grant to the State, and released Rs 97 crore out of it only after it was communicated that State is in the process of imposing the property tax,” he added.
The not so populist decision came a day after the Punjab Government bagged applause for protecting the properties of the NRIs. At the time of voting on the Bill, the Congress expressed its opposition by staging a walkout, only to return to the House in three minutes.
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