Home Articles GIS simplifying property tax collection in India

GIS simplifying property tax collection in India

Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) or the Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation was recently awarded by the World eGovernments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) for its GIS-based property identification (PID) number system. While municipalities across India are increasingly adopting GIS technologies for various e-governance initiatives, the award for BBMP is just an example how the technology can be used to achieve error-free tax collections.

Proper assessment of properties and efficient collection of tax is vital for municipal corporations as property tax is the primary source of income for these authorities. In a bid to improve their functioning, not only Bangalore but several municipalities across India have introduced innovative practices in property tax assessment and administration. Reform of the property tax systems is also one of the mandatory reforms under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The mandate under the JNNURM emphasises the need for implementation of on-line system for property tax through a proper mapping of properties using a GIS system. As a result many municipalities have adopted GIS-based property tax system to strengthen their revenues.

Holes in the net

Issues faced by the civic authorities
    • *Low rate of tax filing, high arrears
    • * Improper assessment of property tax
    • * Large number of unassesed properties
    • * Wrongly assessed properties.
    • * Delay in preparing the list of defaulters
    • * No uniform procedure of taxation
    • * Property records maintained in papers
    • * Tampering of records
    * Inaccurate and inconsistent data

Illegal constructions, un-assessed properties, administrative inadequacies, among others, have eroded the property tax base of most Indian cities. A significant number of properties are not included in the tax base, while those that are included are often inaccurately assessed, leading to inefficient tax collection. Also, legal disputes over property ownership result in poor tax assessment.

Moreover, in many parts of India, property tax details are still maintained in paper format, which makes it difficult for the municipal authorities to track the tax defaulters and trace the un-authorised and under-taxed properties. This results in poor coverage of properties, low revenue and inefficient tax management system.

Preparing a foolproof net
For BBMP, the administrative body responsible for the civic and infrastructural assets of the Greater Bangalore metropolitan area, tax collection reportedly touched INR 1,000 crore as under the new system the authority was able to bring 6.29 lakh properties under the tax net. Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy is expecting the kitty to go up to INR 1,800 crore by the end of this financial year.

The GIS-based property tax system covers the entire area under BBMP’s jurisdiction and as part of this system, a unique property identification number (PID) has been provided to each property. The PID number is a combination of ward number, street number and plot number. The system provides a uniform policy to BBMP to identify properties throughout its jurisdiction to levy tax.

On similar lines, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has deployed GIS to dig out unassessed properties in the city by allotting a unique property tax identification number (PTIN) to each property. The PTIN number enables GHMC to identify each and every parcel in the city to make correct property assessments.

Speaking to Geospatial World, GHMC Special Commissioner Navin Mittal says a comprehensive GIS mapping of individual properties and parcels was carried out by the corporation to bring unassessed properties under the tax net. “Satellite technology was used to measure the buildings, find out the nature of the usage of the building, type of construction, number of floors and other related details. A manual door-to-door field survey was conducted after that and photos of individual properties were taken by the municipal inspectors. This data was then correlated with the data available with the municipal corporation,” explains Mittal. GHMC roped in a private entity, Vensoft, to unearth the errant properties.

Mittal adds GIS mapping project was initially started on a pilot basis, but now it has spread its wings across the city. “A 100 per cent increase in revenue was reported in locations where GIS was used, under the pilot project. Properties which came under the tax net also doubled.”

Use of GIS has opened a whole new horizon for the Kanpur Municipal Corporation (KMC). The KMC utilised this technology for database preparation and assessment of property. The municipal areas that are using the GIS have observed major increase in revenues. According to the KMC website, there has been an increase of INR 102 crore in the annual collection of house tax after completion of GIS mapping in Kanpur. Earlier, annual collection of house tax was INR 28 crore. Moradabad and Varanasi had observed the hike in tax collection by INR 17 crore and INR 18 crore respectively.

 

Not long back KMC was grappling with the issues of poorly assessed properties, lack of proper mechanism to nab tax defaulters and operational inefficiency. Things changed once KMC resorted to GIS mapping of all the properties in Kanpur to develop an accurate database, according to the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). A survey was conducted across the city to identify all new constructions and illegal properties. All this data was then combined to prepare a basemap of the city. Moreover, all paper records of the municipality were digitised to develop an updated database. As a result, number of properties covered under the tax net increased manifold and added to the revenues of the KMC. The increased revenue was used for infrastructural development.

Netting the big fish
In order to bring tax defaulters to book and keep a check on unauthorised buildings, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation has also resorted to GIS mapping. The corporation, in collaboration with Geospatial Delhi Ltd (GSDL), is mapping individual properties to maintain a colony-wise database of the East Delhi region. Speaking to Geospatial World, PK Srivastava, Managing Director, Geospatial Delhi Ltd said, “An aerial survey of the region has been conducted and satellite data has been used to create up-to-date maps. A door-to-door field survey of individual properties has been conducted to classify properties as commercial, residential and educational.” The authorities fund huge discrepancy in their existing data as several properties in the East Delhi region were not included in the civic records, resulting in heavy evasion of property tax and licensing. Srivastava says GSDL seeks to address this problem and aims to build a system for geospatial monitoring and registration of tax payers. “A GIS-based database will bring the defaulters under the tax net and help increase revenues of the corporation,” he added.

Though Srivastava admits that building a GIS system is a complex job as it involves several technological challenges, but he is confident that GSDL can overcome these challenges by consulting multiple resources for solutions.

The Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) has commissioned a survey to identify residential complexes being illegally used for commercial purposes in the city. The survey is being conducted by Infotech Limited, on the basis of which the municipal corporation will realise holding taxes as applicable to commercial complexes from the residential complexes concerned.

PMC’s Project GIS is divided into three phases. The first phase of the survey started with satellite mapping of the structures. A new map was made according to the satellite mapping within the area of 109.218 sq km of PMC; this phase will be followed by a door-to-door visit.

Following suit, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started mapping of properties in the city. Around 113 properties will be mapped on a pilot basis. The data collected by the BMC will be superimposed on a base map developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). BMC officials say the project will help in streamlining property tax calculation. BMC also aims to provide all the detail about the properties online.

Details regarding the year of construction, number of floors, user category, nature and type of building, built-up area and floor number will be gathered. All this information will then be represented on a map with GIS coordinates, giving geographical details and additional information about the structure, as informed to media.

The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, which surveyed properties under GIS almost over, is reportedly gearing up to issue demand notices. The GIS survey, which took more than three years and covered 3.56 lakh properties, indicated around 32 per cent increase in the revenue collection from property tax. According to Additional Commissioner (Projects) K. Ramesh, the survey is over and integrating details like photographs with the other data on the systems is on now. Officials estimate that an additional amount of INR 19 crore a year can be realised using the data.

Spreading the net online
Not far behind, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) has also introduced a GIS-based system that will facilitate management of property tax online. The new GIS, an e-governance project of the BMC, will enable users to pay water charges and property tax through one bill, unlike the present situation where one has to pay water charges and property tax separately to the corporation. BMC officials say GIS will provide a unique property code for all the commercial and residential units in Bhopal, based on which one bill will be prepared for one code. The code remains the same even in case of change in property ownership.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has also prepared a GIS-enabled database of the city. The NIUA report reveals a door-to-door survey was conducted to identify property ownership, following which a digital basemap of the city was developed by the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA). All this data was then combined to develop a GIS-based database.

According to UN-Habitat’s report on ‘Innovative land and property taxation’, Ahmedabad has a centralised property information maintenance system which gives an identification code to each of the properties and facilitates the process of crosschecking the defaulters (making the system more efficient). A full-fledged GIS powered property tax database will soon be operational in the city.

Net takeaway
With GIS revolutionising municipal processes across the world, major Indian cities too have started embracing the technology. However, Srivastava says field property survey, mapping and GIS should take place together as a package to ensure full coverage of properties.

Also, putting in place such a system is expensive and time-consuming and one has to be patient before the results begin to show. As corporations have embraced innovative solutions at various levels and are increasingly identifying illegal constructions, unassessed properties and under-taxed buildings, some municipalities have even been able to reap benefits in form of increase in tax revenues while some are yet to test the waters.

As Srivastava says it may take some time to see the tangible benefits of such initiatives.