In a record-breaking move, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Local Body Tax (LBT) department has settled 30,000 octroi claims, pending since 2004, in the last eight days. “In earlier tax collection systems, many times traders had separate versions on the tax collected at octroi booths situated at the boundary of the city.
Such traders made claims for refund. Due to manpower shortage, thousands of claims were pending for the last nine years. We have settled 30,000 claims in the last eight days,” said Vilas Kanade, LBT chief of PMC. The civic body has started a shop-to-shop registration survey to include traders in the ambit of LBT.
But the survey has stopped due to the ongoing protests by traders. The LBT department has decided to take ‘advantage’ of this bandh and started settling pending octroi claims. “The total number of pending octroi claims is around one lakh. If the traders continue to strike, in another eight days we will clear all the pending octroi,” said Kanade.
However, Kanade refused to give details of how many claims were genuine and the amount of funds PMC had refunded to traders through octroi claims. It seems in almost all claims the LBT department has shut the files. “The claims were pending for the past nine years. Today, how can we decide if the octroi charged on goods somewhere in 2005 is appropriate or not. That’s why settling means we are just closing the files to minimise the long pendency,” said a PMC employee on the condition of anonymity.
Before introducing LBT, PMC has to appoint 300 employees at different octroi booths. “As most of our manpower is on field (octroi booths), it is difficult to look after refund claims. But now all staff members are in the office and we are making full use of our strength for settling pending claims,” added Kanade.