In less than a week after chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy assured the citizens of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) that there would be no new taxes, the stage is set to roll out a one per cent fire tax (surcharge) on property tax.

A proposal to this effect has been sent by the fire services department to the government recently. Officials stumbled on a provision in the AP Fire Services Act, 1999, whereby they can tax to provide the necessary fire-fighting equipment.

Sources said the order is likely to be issued in a week as the home department has forwarded the proposal to the finance department a week ago. After the finance department clears it, the municipal administration department would instruct corporations and municipalities across the state to collect the cess.

The department hopes to raise Rs 10 crore per annum as surcharge and wants to utilise it for procuring sophisticated fire prevention equipment and strengthening the department.

"As per section 36 of the AP Fire Services Act, 1999 and rule 35(C) of the Fire and Emergency Operations and Levy of Fee Rules, 2004, the fire services department can levy tax up to five per cent, but we have decided to collect only one per cent,"a senior functionary of the fire services department told 'TOI' on Sunday.

The erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) had collected about Rs 210 crore towards property tax in the 2006-07 fiscal, while surrounding municipalities collected about Rs 60 crore. The property tax collection in GHMC for the 2007-08 fiscal is estimated to be about Rs 350 crore.

The tax would further burden citizens as the erstwhile MCH and former surrounding municipalities had completed the exercise to revise the existing property tax.

Though the civic bodies wanted to implement the revised property tax from April 2007, the municipal administration department had put the decision on hold keeping in view of elections in Greater Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry and Hindupur municipal corporation a couple of months ago.

The Karnataka government has been collecting one per cent fire cess on the Fire Precautionary Fund being paid by builders for getting 'No Objection Certificate' for construction of high-rise buildings. But the state fire services department decided to collect the fee from property tax payers.

The fire services department also sent a proposal to the home department to have a separate legal cell headed by a senior public prosecutor to deal with cases pertaining to fire safety violations and initiate prosecution proceedings against 'erring' builders.
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