Digital Shift

KMC improves tax revenues through online payment system

The Kanpur Municipal Corporation (KMC) plays a significant role in catering to the civic amenities of the largest city of Uttar Pradesh with a population of about 0.27 million (Census 2011). The local body is responsible for services such as water supply, sanitation, town planning, and the issuance of birth and death certificates. For decades, KMC relied solely on conventional methods of governance such as manual collection of revenue, maintenance of records on paper and hearing out individual grievances, which proved to be inefficient and delayed the provision of facilities to residents. In order to fast-track the process, KMC has adopted information technology-based solutions for issuing birth and death certificates and for grievance redressal. It has also digitalised their procurement process and is uploading newsletters on the website regularly. Further, KMC has launched a GIS-based online property tax management portal to resolve the issue of inconsistent revenue collection, especially taxes. The introduction of this digital platform has transformed the way residents paid taxes earlier. Further, the mapping of properties has increased the number of properties under the tax base, thereby improving tax collection.

Online property tax payment application

As property taxes are one of the major sources of revenue for KMC, there was an urgent need to revamp the property tax payment mechanism in order to prevent evasion. Over the years, tax collection has remained low due to issues of poorly assessed properties and operational inefficiencies. To combat these issues, KMC has launched the online property tax payment and information facility. This online portal has been developed with the help of ESRI India. The scope of work undertaken by ESRI was categorised into two broad components based on the requirements of the application.

  • The first component involved carrying out a survey of properties in six zones of Kanpur along with their GIS mapping.
  • The second involved the development of an application by cataloging all the property data and further developing a website to provide access to the residents.

GIS mapping of properties

To develop an accurate spatial property database, KMC resorted to GIS mapping using ESRI’s software ArcSDE, ArcView. Through the software, 200 ground control points using differential global positioning system (DGPS) were selected. Also, quick bird images or satellite images having 0.6 megapixel resolution of the entire area under the KMC jurisdiction were procured. These images were then georeferenced using the ground control points, which were collected from the DGPS. With the help of these geo-corrected quick bird images, KMC’s existing GIS maps were updated.

Further, KMC conducted a survey using the mapped satellite data to identify all newly constructed and illegal properties. These properties were then renumbered with a unique premise number or property identification (PID) number. An assessment list of the properties was developed, which has been uploaded on the interactive web application of KMC.

Desktop application

To provide access to this database, ESRI has developed an informative and interactive desktop application. This application mainly helps in property database repository management and tax assessment. To set up the application, ESRI supplied and installed the required software and hardware, besides providing a connection to the server. It allows KMC staff to calculate taxes for the mapped areas and generate various kinds of reports that are required in the day-to-day operations. It can also be used by KMC officials to perform conditional queries on database. For instance, queries related to the tax collected zone-wise or tax collected in a financial year for a selected ward can be made. As the database is linked to spatial layers, the results of analysis and queries are displayed on GIS maps. Further, different maps based on zones, wards and property type can be accessed through the desktop application.

KMC’s GIS-based website

To provide citizens with a hassle-free tax payment experience, KMC has developed an interactive GIS-based website. Property owners can log into their respective accounts using their PID number. This number consists of 15 digits with the first digit being the zone ID, followed by three digits each representative of the ward ID and chak ID respectively. The last eight digits are system generated and stand for the auto number of the property.

Key features of the website

  • Kanpur residents can pay their taxes at the click of a button with the online payment gateway. They need to log into the website using their PID number and make the payment using a State Bank of India credit or debit card or an Axis Bank master/visa card.
  • Further, residents can access their property tax details including tax liabilities and existing status of the paid taxes, besides accessing information about the annual taxes due to be paid.
  • The application also provides information about the ward-wise rates applicable on properties, enabling residents in the self-assessment of property taxes. For self-assessment, the taxes for residential and commercial buildings are calculated only for the mapped areas using the unit area method.
  • The website provides access to multiple zone-wise, ward-wise, block-wise and chak-wise maps.
  • Further, these maps can be bought by an individual or by organisations by making a purchase request online.
  • Another special feature of the website is that it facilitates the redressal of grievances in case of transaction failures. A receipt of the tax paid is generated immediately, besides the automatic updation of data based on time-specific schedule.
  • The application also provides an option to update the mobile number of the property owner to get regular notifications about the tax amount due and other alerts.

Key advantages

  • The application provides the residents with a hassle-free method of paying taxes online using the PID number.
  • The online portal ensures transparency in governance by correctly assessing the taxes based on the rates applicable for a particular location.
  • There has been a significant reduction in instances of delays in addressing tax-related grievances.
  • Further, the facility of online tax payment and status verification removes the need for having intermediary agents, who usually tend to dupe property owners.
  • The civic authorities and then staff have also benefited immensely as it has helped in better revenue generation and reduced theworkload for the latter.
  • The summary of transactions can be viewed, which helps in keeping a tab on the arrears, if any, in the taxes paid.

Conclusion

The online tax payment and information portal has been successful in reducing the instances of tax defaults, thereby improving revenue collection. In the year 2016-17, KMC earned a revenue of Rs 136.01 million in taxes, which is about 46 per cent higher than the taxes collected in 2015-16 (about Rs 92.76 million). The civic agency has further estimated to earn about Rs 147.01 million in taxes in 2017-18. Therefore, online tax collection has shown significant improvement on a year-on-year basis.

The introduction of the online payment mechanism has also eliminated the need for paper records. The corporation has also witnessed a 3 per cent increment in house tax coverage. Further, the new online system has simplified governance for KMC staff as the central database can be easily accessed through the desktop.

That said, the uptake of the online tax payment portal by residents is still slow. This is primarily due to the lack of awareness and apprehension on the part of residents to pay taxes. Against this backdrop, there is a need to introduce stringent policies, which will go a long way in reducing tax evasion.

 

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