The Walton Cantonment Board (WCB) and the Lahore Cantonment Board (LCB) have raised the property tax rate of developed housing corporations in areas under their jurisdiction by more than 300 percent, Profit learned on Friday.
According to information available to Profit, the annual property tax rate for a house spanning a Defense Housing Authority (DHA) canal within WCB boundaries has reached Rs70,000, or between Rs12,000 and 17,000. Last year. Similarly, DHA residents will have to pay an annual tax of up to 143,000 rupees for a house stretched over two canals, which was 33,000 rupees until last year.
Residents of DHA have expressed serious concerns about the increase in property tax rates and have rejected it. Speaking to this scribe, DHA Phase I resident Ishtiaq Khan said the increase in tax rates this time compared to last year was very stressful.
“Such a huge and sudden increase while people are struggling with inflation is incomprehensible. I have a one canal house which I paid Rs 15,000 in rent for last year. there are about twenty-four houses.If this amount of tax was paid by each house, then our street alone was paying 360,000 rupees last year.Now I have been sent a property tax bill of 70,000 rupees , which means that the WCB will collect about Rs 1.7 million in taxes from our street alone. On the other hand, the authority does not provide any such facility that justifies this amount, “he lamented.
Similarly, Zeenat Kamil, a resident of DHA Phase III, said WCB has the illusion that people living in DHA are wealthy.
“I have a two-channel house in phase III, whose property tax was Rs 28,000 last year has now risen to Rs 140,000,” she informed.
“What is the justification for receiving such a huge amount as tax while you own your own property in Pakistan. for a resident who lives in their own home, this amount is unrealistic. WCB should reconsider and send bills for the actual amount of taxes,” she lamented.
It can be noted here that DHA residents have issued a protest call against the huge increase in tax rates and are also raising their voices against the decision through various social media platforms.
When contacted, Umair Shaukat, a senior WCB official, informed that the property tax rates of all approved companies within WCB boundaries have been increased.
“These rates are levied in accordance with Section 64 of the Cantonments Act, but there are also many exemptions and discounts which vary from case to case. This was not the case before and the tax rates did not increase every year. At present, the property tax for a one-canal house in DHA is around Rs 65,000. We have reduced the tax by one-third on self-occupied properties. The formula we applied for this is based on land cost and construction cost. However, this formula is not for rental properties,” he informed.
When asked what type of rebates and exemptions were granted by the WCB, he replied that the board granted exemptions based on the year each home was built.
“If a house is between five and nine years old, it gets a 10% discount. Similarly, a 10 to 15 year old house gets a 15 pc discount, a 15 to 20 year old house gets a 20 pc discount, and a house over 20 years old gets a discount of up to at 25pc,” he claimed.
However, there was no mention of such reimbursement or exemption on the tax invoices provided by WBC on which Shaukat advised that such cases are resolved on individual bases.
“In fact, we don’t have the year of construction record of any house located in DHA. Because if we talk about DHA, they don’t share any such records with us. However, we guide anyone who comes to us. For this, we request the plan of the house which is approved by the DHA and from the plan, we access the year of construction to grant the reimbursement accordingly,” he said.
He added that the WBC does not assess the cost of the land according to the FBR rate but according to the current rate of the Deputy Commissioner (DC), which is one million per marla in the DHA while the cost of construction is assessed for the same year in which any house is built.
When asked how many property owners in the DHA had so far paid taxes in accordance with the new rates, he replied that more than 1,000 bills had been collected.
When Shaukat was asked if military officers or employees were fully exempt from property tax, he replied that every government employee was exempt from property tax.
“A civil servant, whether a peon or a secretary working in a civil institution and receiving a salary from the Accountant General’s (AG) office, is exempt from property tax of 60pc in a single house in which he lives. officers and military personnel are also included in this category. Similarly, a 100pc exemption from property tax is granted to retired employees and executives. However, these exemptions are not available to self-governing bodies,” said he added.
Shaukat further informed that council expense bills have increased one hundred percent over the past two years.
“Two years ago, our essential expenses were around 120 million rupees, including DHA street lighting bills. Likewise, we provide remediation services to DHA through highly paid contractors and pay the expenses ourselves. Then there are the expenses of employee salaries. Now, these expenses have increased to Rs250 million. Property taxes are increasing in cantonment areas across Pakistan,” he said.
Shaukat also advised that the rate assessment for properties near Walton Road and Defense Main Boulevard has not been completed and that these areas are also included within the council boundary.