Hyderabad: The Telangana government owes the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Rs 5,258 crore in property taxes, some of it going back nearly 25 years, an RTI (Right to Information) response has revealed.
For instance, the state medical department has not paid cumulative dues of Rs 1,185 crore that have built up over the last 23 years. The Telangana Police department owes Rs 420 crore in property taxes that have remained unpaid for 12 years, adds the RTI reply, which has been accessed by ThePrint.
The Telangana Secretariat, meanwhile, owes the GHMC Rs 391.84 crore in property taxes accumulated over the course of 13 years, the RTI response says. Furnished by GHMC Commissioner Lokesh Kumar, the response includes data until April 2022.
The RTI application was filed by Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of the Hyderabad-based think tank Forum for Good Governance.
ThePrint reached Telangana’s Special Chief Secretary for Urban Development, Arvind Kumar, Tuesday by call and text for a comment on the matter, but had not received a response until the time of publishing this report.
The defaulters named in the RTI reply include the Pragati Bhavan, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s office-cum-residence spread across a sprawling 9 acres in the heart of Hyderabad. The civic body is owed Rs 32 lakh in property taxes for Pragati Bhavan, an amount that has been pending for three years now, according to the RTI response.
Over the years, multiple notices have been sent to various government departments in connection with the taxes owed by 87 state-owned buildings, but to no avail, the reply says.
“The main revenue to local bodies comes from taxes. This shows that as law-abiding citizens, they (people) are paying taxes so that GHMC provides them civic amenities. When it comes to payment of taxes on government properties, the government is not paying the due taxes and setting a bad example,” Reddy told ThePrint.
Reddy, on behalf of the think tank, requested the Telangana chief secretary Monday to direct all heads of departments to clear what they owe the civic body in property taxes. This, he said, would enable the GHMC to provide basic amenities to the people of Hyderabad, especially in slum areas.
‘Starving the GHMC’
Among the departments that owe property tax to the GHMC are Roads & Buildings, Transport, Education, Ration, Labour Welfare, and Fisheries. Property taxes are also owed to the civic body by collectorate offices, registration offices, the state printing press, and Public Gardens, a government-run recreational spot, apart from the office of the CBI and the Central Excise Office building, the RTI reply says.
The RTI response shows that, in addition to the Rs 5,258 crore owed in taxes by state government departments, state government undertakings (enterprises or corporations in which the government holds stake) owe the civic body another Rs 306 crore in property taxes.
“The state government is virtually starving the GHMC, firstly by not paying the due taxes and secondly by not releasing funds as recommended by State Finance Commission, resulting in GHMC not able to provide basic civic needs,” Reddy said.
The Prohibition and Excise department — which accounts for an annual revenue of Rs 35,000 crore — owes the GHMC Rs 895 crore in property taxes, an amount that has accumulated over 21 years, he added.
In April 2022, the GHMC — falling short of its annual tax collection target — introduced an ‘Early Bird’ scheme that allowed taxpayers to avail a 5 per cent rebate on taxes paid towards the end of the financial year. The civic body collected Rs 720 crore in April, against the deficit of Rs 600 crore it had hoped to bridge.
The GHMC, in the financial year 2021-2022, collected over Rs 1,850 crore in property taxes, compared to Rs 1,472 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 1,419 crore in FY 2018-19.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)