Hoping to end the logjam between striking traders and authorities, the state government has given into one of their major demands.
Chief secretary JK Banthia, who met a delegation from the Pune Merchants Association, said that although it was not possible for the sales tax department to assess local taxes, as was demanded by traders, the government would consider appointing officers from the income tax and sales tax departments. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is likely to make an announcement regarding it and other relaxations in a few days.
Traders’ associations had earlier demanded that the powers of levying local taxes be handed over to the sales tax department as municipal corporations lacked experienced officers.
However, Banthia said the state was not in favour of curtailing powers of civic bodies. “Nonetheless, we may appoint existing and retired officials from the sales tax and I-T departments. Civic bodies will be the appointing authorities,” he said.
Traders were also assured that a few more goods would be exempted from the local body tax (LBT) regime.
The government has, however, turned down the demand that a tribunal resolve disputes in the assessment. “We are not in favour of an independent tribunal. Appeals can always be referred to higher authorities in the civic bodies,” said Banthia.
The state also maintained that some of resistance by traders was owing to misconceptions. “They fear that the tax will also be applicable on the sale of goods and that they would have to maintain records for it. We have clarified that records will have to be kept only for purchases and those older than a year can be destroyed if a notice is not served to them,” an official said. However, he clarified that traders, irrespective of whether they imported goods, would still need to register for LBT.