Property Tax Board turns out to be non-starter

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Sept 24: Much hyped Property Tax Board for Jammu and Kashmir, which had to implement property tax in the State, has turned out to be a non-starter due to opposition of the move from some quarters that it would burden the people, who were already reeling under worst ever inflation.
However, delay in implementation of property tax, which has been made a mandatory urban tax reform by the Government of India, could lead to blockade of some funds to the Urban Development Department. The major reasons for delay in implementation of the tax attributed to Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, which were due next year.
Asserting that his Ministry hasn’t completely given up its stand on constitution of Property Tax Board, Urban Development Minister Rigzin Jora told the Excelsior that he would be meeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah shortly on the issue of constitution of the Board.
“Let’s wait on the decision,” he said, adding he was still confident on constitution of the Board and implementation of property tax.
Official sources said the Urban Development Ministry was under intense pressure from the Government of India to implement urban tax reforms including imposition of property tax. Release of funds under different categories have been linked to the implementation of taxes.
However, according to sources both the coalition partners including National Conference and Congress (I) were hesitant to implement new taxes as Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were due to be held next year. The Alliance partners feared adverse impact of new taxes in the next year’s elections.
The State Government had even announced constitution of Property Tax Board and appointment of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jeet Lal Gupta as its chairman on his superannuation on August 31. However, the decision hasn’t been implemented as yet.
It was since 2010 that the State Government was trying to set up Property Tax Board and implement property tax in the State. Two bills to this effect were passed twice by the Legislative Assembly and once by the Legislative Council authorizing establishment of the Board and introduction of property tax in the State.
The bill had to be passed twice in the Legislative Assembly in 2010 and 2011 as it lapsed due to delay in approval by the Council.
Sources said the coalition partners were of the view that constitution of the Property Tax Board would send a message to the people that the Government was going to implement property tax in the State and this could mar the prospectus of their candidates in the upcoming elections of Parliament and Assembly.
“This was the major reason behind the delay in constitution of the Board despite approval by the Government and appointment of Mr Gupta as its head,” sources said.
It may be mentioned here that the Government of India had linked some grants to the Urban Development Department to implementation of reforms. “Until these reforms, the property tax being one of them, were implemented, the grants would remain blocked,” sources said.