Addressing Property Taxation Challenges with Geospatial Technologies
Thanks to developments in data capturing methods, availability of smaller high-performance sensors, better processing capacities, and a liberalized legal landscape, Geospatial adoption for citizen-centric services has seen a major boost. One such vertical in urban governance that is benefitting immensely because of Geospatial application is Property Taxation and Management.
Property taxes are the primary source of income for urban local bodies, making an efficient collection of taxes a vital requirement. Geographically tied to the city jurisdiction, property taxes provide a steady and assured source of revenue, power, and autonomy to the administration, allowing them to spend it of their own volition.
Where traditional systems of revenue collection and management have proved to be inefficient over time, Geospatial technologies are helping establish effective, transparent, easy-to-manage systems for streamlined operations.
Challenges Faced by Civic Authorities in Property Tax Management
Overall, Indian urban local bodies are struggling due to the lack of a uniform procedure of property taxation in the country. Most property records continue to be maintained on paper and stored in-premise, making verification, modification, and updates a tedious task. This also makes it difficult for local governments to hunt down tax evaders and locate unregistered and under-taxed properties, resulting in poor revenue and inefficient management.
Illegal and unassessed constructions abound in urban India, severely undermining the property tax base of most Indian cities. The result is that many properties are not even included in the tax base. According to a study, while the average property tax collection for countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is at 1.1%, the value for Indian counterparts stands at less than 0.2%, or one-sixth.
Out of those that are, many continue to be incorrectly evaluated using obsolete and inadequate mapping techniques, or complex and expensive methods of property evaluation. These are also the chief reasons behind the lack of up-to-date maps for modified and new properties.
Add to that the inadequate data support for validating manual property assessments, since there is space for considerable errors, manipulation, tampering and deviations due to manual processes. The situation is worsened due to lack of regular, data-driven updates on land regulations and policies. There are also considerable gaps in linkage of spatial information to existing regulations across the country.
Reinventing the Wheel with Geospatial Technologies
With the ability to serve as a one-stop interface between the Government and citizens, Geospatial technologies allow for smooth and integrated access to diverse governance functions, including property tax management. Local governments must have current, updated, and accurate cadastral data in order to determine the best amount of property taxation. This is where geospatial technologies are linked to property taxation and municipal governance.
Precise and accurate cadastral maps for property taxation necessitate the use of high-resolution satellite imagery, survey, and GNSS technologies. Furthermore, Geospatial technology also provides city managers with an analytical tool for establishing a comprehensive system that overlays property data with tax jurisdictions of commercial, residential, and industrial units.
Such a data-driven, analytical system allows revenue officials to track down tax evaders, better analyse population density distribution, and design improved citizen services using property tax data.
Case In Point: Geospatial-Based Cloud Solution for Property Taxation, Panaji Municipal Corporation
The Panaji Municipal Corporation created an online property tax solution to help streamline the process of tax collection, based on a robust Geographic Information System (GIS). This cloud-based software solution enabled intelligent revenue management using data analytics for collection and analysis of residential and commercial property data.
Data from different locations within the city were collected and integrated in real-time using Geospatial technologies, enabling not just timely updates but database completion for the Panaji Municipal Corporation, which had been a long-term challenge for years. The use of GPS devices aided door-to-door property data capture for detailed assessment, while region-wise real-time updates were supported on the comprehensive GIS platform.
The integrated database holistically covered all-round information on property usage and ownership, along with geo-tagged photographs for complete transparency. From an earlier scenario where only 79% of the city’s properties fell under the house tax net, the ULB managed to increase its tax collection revenue by ₹5 million in a single ward.
With Geospatial technologies revolutionising municipal operations around the world, prominent Indian towns have begun to adopt the technology as well. More and more corporations in India are now deploying innovative solutions to identify illegal structures, unassessed properties, and under-taxed buildings, and streamline tax assessment, collecting, and monitoring processes.
While some towns have already reaped rewards in the form of increased collections, others have yet to test the waters. The need of the hour is to take cognisance of both the benefits and challenges associated with Geospatial adoption for city-wide applications and work towards tackling them responsibly. One such challenge is the huge technical skill gap among city administrators as far as Geospatial and ICT technologies are concerned.
Moving forward, we need skilled resources at all levels for strategic preparations, as well as deeper involvement of Geospatial private sector experts for coming up with the best services, solutions, platform development and analytics on a case-to-case basis. Public-private partnerships can enable equal liability and responsibility while delivering citizen-centric platforms, and an integrative approach can be adopted to accelerate the adoption and benefits of Geospatial technologies for property tax management.