In a bid to go digital in this pandemic age to reduce physical contact, and to mop up the large amount of property tax due from defaulters, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is starting a WhatsApp ChatBot facility that allows citizens to deposit property taxes via the mobile app while KMC will take over any vacant and unassessed property till its owner reclaims it by getting it assessed and paying the due taxes for it.
The civic body has held a meeting with officials of its tax assessment department where it discussed strategies to reclaim the substantial amount of due property taxes, amounting to crores. Mr Firhad Hakim, after taking oath as the KMC mayor, had promised citizens that KMC will work towards providing several of its services online. As part of this, a WhatsApp number is being activated where a ChatBot facility, much like one that was started for registering for vaccines at KMC clinics, will now provide information relating to tax dues, license registration, collection of birth/death certificates etc.
Mr Sandipan Saha, member, mayor-in-council, said that the citizens can now contact KMC for the available services at 8335999111. Here, one can scroll through various topics relating to KMC services e.g for inquiry of property tax dues, one will just need to share their assessee number and get the details. “We will send the citizens a link for payment using which one can clear their dues or make the timely payment of property taxes.” The civic body will also start services like E-Wallet to make payments easier for taxpayers.
The mayor Firhad Hakim said that a strong computer network is being developed which will handle all the online services. “We have already floated a tender to set up the facility.”
Further, it was decided that the KMC will now make completion certificates redundant for getting one’s newly bought property assessed and subsequently paying the taxes. A KMC official said that it was observed during tax collection that residents who had bought a newly constructed home/flat are not able to get their properties assessed for tax payment because the promoter has not handed over the completion certificate which till now was mandatory in getting a new property assessed.
The mayor said, “Taxpayers can now use a self-declaration to get their newly bought properties assessed. This can also help them in getting mutation done for their property.” It is learnt that for properties on lands of the Housing department or that of KMDA, the allotment letter is required to be submitted along with a self-declaration. In the case of private properties, a possession letter with self-declaration will suffice. Meanwhile, for all vacant and unassessed properties whose owners are untraceable, the KMC will take over the plot and install a signboard declaring it now belongs to the civic body. The owner of such properties can reclaim their plots by first getting their properties assessed and then paying the tax for it.
A KMC official, requesting anonymity, said such measures had to be taken since the KMC treasury is in dire need for revenues for rendering services to the citizens. The huge amount of property tax dues is adversely affecting KMC in taking up new projects which are necessary.