Beleaguered residents wait for land tax refund

The residents of extended Thromde areas in Phuentsholing are anxiously waiting to get the land tax refund, which they had paid to the Phuentsholing Thromde Office from 2011 to 2015.

The inhabitants had been paying urban tax for almost around five years after which the government decided and moved back to the rural tax collection system.

Many residents say that they have toiled hard just to pay the urban tax, which ranged from Nu 0.25 to Nu 0.75 per square foot (sqft) from 2011 to 2015, despite not getting much income from those areas. Their only sources of income are from areca nut and some ginger cultivation, whose production they say has been declining with the pollution from the nearby Pasakha Industrial Estate.

Further, these areas are also yet to receive all the proper facilities that most other areas under Thromde enjoy. The facilities such as sewerage, drainage, road and drinking water facilities have still not found their place into these areas.

The residents say it’s infuriating when urban taxes are collected without providing all the required facilities. They say that the Thromde should not have charged urban tax blindly without proper identification and demarcation. The areas should be identified after the Local Area Plan and then must be taxed accordingly as the different areas might fall in different precincts.

A local resident, Aita Singh Tamang said, “Taxing at lump sum is unacceptable. They just want to increase their revenue from the tax to show to the government.”

He added that the Thromde should have continued to collect the tax if what they were doing were right.

Meanwhile, other residents say that the urban tax should have been collected after providing proper facilities in place instead of levying or collecting blanket tax rates.

In Pekarzhing, the road construction has already destroyed areca nuts and the farmers have stopped cultivating ginger. The paddy cultivation has also been stopped many years ago as the land now houses four industries.

A Pekarzhing resident, Shyam Kumari said, “We have worked hard just to pay the tax, which is so huge for villagers like us. We were aware to skip penalty which compelled us to mortgage our crops. We are happy to pay the rural land tax, but will be happy if we are refunded.”

Shyam Kumari has paid close to Nu 300,000 for over five years for her five acres of land. There are more than 30 taxpayers in Pekarzhing alone.

And while there is road connectivity and electricity in Pekarzhing, the residents are yet to receive safe drinking water along with other facilities that the Thromde provides. Some residents say that the road is not a priority as the area is already located right below the way to the Pasakha Industrial Estate.

“Instead the road has destroyed our areca nuts and fields,” Nar Bdr. Ghalley, another Pekarzhing resident said.

And for the residents of Reldri, the area is yet to get a road and other facilities and have been paying urban tax. The area has also received drinking water supply this year. But Reldri resident like Bahadur Ghalley say they would be happy if they are refunded. “We are all villagers who have paid urban tax without much income,”

To pay the urban land tax and avoid penalties, many people have also confronted difficulties. They also asked and took advance from the areca nut dealers to pay the taxes. Another resident, Hem Kumar Ghalley, has paid Nu 3,084 as penalty for two years.

However, Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said the Thromde cannot provide refund unless the government notifies them. He added the implementation is temporary and the taxation system will bounce back to urban when Local Area Plan is complete and all the facilities are put in the areas.

“In fact, it is a good move made by the government to shift from urban to rural taxation for them. They should have raised the issue when its implementation started in 2011,” he said.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing