KARACHI, Oct 25: After more than three decades the Sindh government has conducted a property survey in the province, though, according to law, reassessment and evaluation of property has to be done after every five years.

To update record and bring new assessees into the tax net the Sindh excise and taxation department has conducted a comprehensive survey in more than 42 cities and towns in the province, though the matter of property tax now lies with district governments.

Officials say only two attempts have been made in the past: one by the World Bank and the other by a private firm, but both failed due to unwillingness on the part of successive governments.

Earlier taxes on all property were charged according to the number of rooms, property less than 200 square yards was charged at the rate of Rs20 a room, and property more than this size was charged at the rate of Rs40.

In addition, the owner was also liable to pay 2.5 per cent betterment tax, 20pc surcharge and 25pc additional surcharge.

Property-owners have always complained that property tax officials deliberately charged them higher rates by issuing wrong challans and incomplete documents, which are usually rectified after visiting the office concerned.

Officials agree that some trouble is faced by property-owners, but deny irregularity and corruption in it, and attribute all such cases to the complex system. However, all of this leaves property-owners at the mercy of taxation officials.

According to the Secretary Excise & Taxation Department, Sindh, Ikhlaq Ahmed Tarar, the formula for the assessment of property tax is so difficult and full of discrepancies that in the past there was a lot of complaints against the taxation department.

The new assessment procedure is based on the annual rental value which is calculated on the basis of the size of plot and its covered area.

Different localities have been allotted separate values, and in case of Karachi it has been divided into four zones, according to living standards.

Officials said 17 new cities had also been added into the tax base, which were earlier exempted from it.

Although the tax procedure has now been simplified, property-owners complain that the new rates are far higher than what they had been paying in the past.

Under the new assessment procedure, tax liabilities of commercial property have also increased manifolds. According to a report in the electronic media, a 200 square-yard commercial property was being charged about Rs5,000 in the past, but now, as per the new formula, it is more than Rs11,000.

The President of the All Pakistan Small & Cottage Industries, Nisar Ahmed Siddiqui, said the government must consider the ground realities before imposing taxes, and people of remote and rural areas should be exempted from it.

Government officials, on the other hand, say all matters of public grievances will be referred to the committee which comprise representatives of district governments, members of chamber of commerce and industry and excise and taxation officer of the area.

However, the new tax challan is being distributed, though, under the devolution plan, collection of property tax is under the jurisdiction of district governments.

According to sources, the EDO Revenues of Karachi city government, Javed Hanif, has lodged a complaint at the National Reconstruction Bureau against the delay in the devolution of excise and taxation department by the Sindh government.—PPI

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