Marking a historic first, Agra Municipal Corporation has sent notices to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) requesting payment of Rs 1.9 crore in water tax and Rs 1.47 lakh in property tax on the Taj Mahal. The monument was designated as protected in 1920, and as a result, this request for a tax from the municipal corporation is generating a discussion.
What do the bills say?
The invoices relate to the fiscal years 2021–2022 and 2022–2023. According to the notification given to the ASI, the unpaid property tax as of 31 March, 2022, was Rs 88,784, plus Rs 47,983 in interest. For the fiscal year 2022–2023, a property tax of Rs 11,098 has been added, bringing the total to Rs 14,7826, which must be paid within 15 days. ASI has been instructed to pay any outstanding debts within the next 15 days; else, the Taj Mahal would be “attached” if the tax is not paid on time. The notice also contains interest for prior tax obligations that were unpaid.
How has the ASI responded to it?
While speaking to media outlets, ASI superintending archaeologist Raj Kumar Patel said, “property tax is not applicable on monuments. We are also not liable to pay taxes for water as there is no commercial use of it. Water is used to maintain greenery within the premises. Notices related to water and property tax for Taj Mahal have been received for the first time. It could have been sent by mistake.”
He also added that if the AMC wants house tax on the Taj Mahal, it should raise the demand to the central government. R K Patel is now reportedly consulting ASI directorate for guidance over the issue.
Meanwhile, Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber secretary Vishal Sharma has also made a comment over water and house tax issue on Taj Mahal. Given that the Taj Mahal is a central government property and a World Heritage Site, he claimed that the tax recovery notification is incomprehensible. According to Sharma, the mayor of Agra needs to explain why the Taj Mahal was used as the subject of this notification.
Making a remark over the issue, Municipal commissioner Nikhil T Funde said, “I am not aware about the tax-related proceedings related to the Taj Mahal. Fresh notices are being issued based on the statewide geographic information system (GIS) survey conducted for calculation of taxes. All premises, including government buildings and religious sites, have been issued notices based on dues pending on them. Rebate is provided following due process of law. In the case of notices issued to ASI, required action will be taken on the basis of response received from them.”
Assistant municipal commissioner and in-charge of the Tajganj zone, Sarita Singh, said the matter related to notices issued for water and property tax on the Taj Mahal is being investigated. “A private company has been tasked to realise tax on the basis of a GIS survey,” she added.
Other similar notices
A similar notice has been sent to Itmad-ud-Daulah, which is also an ASI-protected monument.