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Online system of tax collection runs into rough weather

By S. Ganesan

TIRUCHI, FEB.6. Even as the Tiruchi Corporation has gone into overdrive to improve tax collection, the online system of tax collection continues to be plagued by problems caused by errors and incomplete data fed into computers causing hardship to taxpayers.

Hundreds of taxpayers, who turn up at the online tax collection centres to remit their current tax dues, are shocked when they are told that they have arrears in property and water taxes. Many regular taxpayers are told that they have arrears running to thousands of rupees.

In some cases, the tax dues were stated to be pending from 1994-95 and prior to upgradation of the civic body into a corporation.

The employees at the collection centres and bank branches ask the hapless people to produce receipts as a matter of proof.

Complaints of this kind have become widespread in the city and marred the otherwise successful online system of tax collection, introduced as part of the corporation's e-governance project last March. So far, the civic body has netted over Rs.10 crores as property and water taxes under the system this fiscal.

Though the corporation has established a separate counter to handle such cases and correct the records on production of receipts, taxpayers especially senior citizens find it extremely difficult to trace their previous receipts.

Many have not preserved them and it was unjust on the part of the corporation to ask for receipts dating back to several years, the president of the District Chamber of Commerce, L. Gnanaraj, pointed out.

He insisted that the corporation should check its records before issuing demand notices to tax arrears as several genuine taxpayers were being affected. He demanded the civic body to verify the computerised records thoroughly.

The problem has become acute as more people turn up to pay their taxes as the financial year draws to a close.

The issue figured prominently in the previous council with a section of the councillors demanding the corporation to rectify the problem.

Corporation sources concede that the problem has been caused by incompleteness of the data but maintain that this was just a teething trouble, which would be rectified automatically after the current fiscal payments were made.

But some councillors attribute the problem to the `lapses and irregularities,' in maintenance of manual records by the corporation bill collectors and revenue staff in the past.

In several cases, payments have not been entered into the records though receipts have been issued to the taxpayers, they alleged. To compound to the problem, errors have crept in while computerising the records.

Several residents and councillors alleged that demand notices were not issued to the taxpayers, though the Commissioner, Anand Patil, maintained that they were being served properly. Thousands of demand notices have been despatched through courier services, he claimed at the council meeting.

While the corporation's attempts to collect arrears from wilful defaulters have been widely welcomed, residents and service organisations have urged the authorities not to victimise genuine taxpayers in the process.

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