Dhaka's holding tax mess harasses house owners

Arup Datta | Update:

.Many of Dhaka city's house owners have complained that authorities have recently raised holding tax up to 11 times, causing much trouble to them.

As the city corporation officials have in recent times revised the holding tax applicable for house owners, a serious mismatch in assessment has come to the surface.

House owners have alleged a section of officials demanded bribe to 'rationalise' their holding tax after they made upward revision.

Abdul Matin, a house owner in North Mugdha, paid holding amounting Tk 9,200 during the last financial year.

"Dhaka South City Corporation, in a letter dated 2 September, asked me to pay Tk 98,260 this fiscal year," Matin told Prothom Alo.

Matin's son Abdur Rashid said their house was built in 1976. The city officials made an assessment of their house based on their assumption, not any survey, he pointed out. "Holding tax of our house has been raised 11 times."

The holding tax for house no142/4 at Provatibagh of Khilgaon was fixed earlier at Tk 4,800, but it has been recently been raised to Tk 32,000, according to house owner Monirul Islam, who lives in the two-storey house on two decimals of land.

The amount of tax for historic 'Queen Building' in that area was Tk 3500. It was raised to Tk 15000 in 2015 and suddenly made Tk 90,000 this year.

After 28 years, Dhaka's two city corporations are now revising the holding tax amounts to adjust the rates between newly-built houses and old ones and also generate more revenue.

Calling the revised tax amounts as higher than rational, some house owners have alleged that the city corporation officials are fixing higher tax with their ill motives.

The flat owners of a house on Road-4 in Dhanmondi area have paid Tk 15,000 each to certain city corporation officials to reduce the enhanced holding tax amount, they said.

When contacted, Dhaka South mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon said, "Punitive measures will be taken if the allegations are proved to be true."

Dhaka North mayor Annisul Huq could not be contacted as he is staying abroad.

Some tenants have expressed apprehensions that the house owners might raise rents if the holding tax is abruptly raised.

The holding tax of old houses have not been revised since 1989, according to officials at the two city corporations.

The revenue department of the city corporations said the holding tax is being fixed between Tk 4 and Tk 15 per square feet in the South and Tk 4 to Tk 18 in the North. In the 1990s, the holding tax was between Tk 1.30 and Tk 3 per square feet.

The latest move to revise tax began on 8 August and the process is expected to be completed by December.

Once the new rates come into effect, the two city corporations will earn revenue amounting to about Tk 10 billion, more than double the current amount of Tk 4.62 billion.

However, chairman of Consumers Association of Bangladesh Ghulam Rahman said the revision of holding tax will create certain pressure on the house owners.

He insisted that the city corporations should rather take steps to adress corruption and inefficiency at the two city corporations.

There are a total of 3,73,000 houses in the areas of jurisdiction of the two city corporations in the city, according to official records. Of them, some 2,15,000 houses are in the North and 1,58,000 in the South.

Dhaka North has so far completed revising holding tax in Uttara, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Mahakhali (Zone 1 and 2). The city authorities have partially completed revision of tax in greater Mirpur, Karwan Bazar, Lalmatia and Mohammadpur. And the process is going on in the rest of the areas.

Dhaka South has completed revision of holding tax in almost 90 per cent of its areas of command -- Dhanmondi, Kalabagan, Green Road, Elephant Road, Hatirpool, Kathalbagan, Motijheel, Khilgaon, Shantinagar, Malibagh and Naya Paltan.

 *This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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