Zhemgang Town

Is it fair for people in remote places to pay urban taxes when they don’t get the basic civic amenities

The country’s taxation system feels unjust with people having to pay high taxes when they can’t enjoy basic amenities, especially in those areas which are recognized as urban areas in districts like Zhemgang, Gasa and Pemagatshel. 

In some districts of the country, people living in the areas classified as urban areas have no access to basic amenities, like proper sewage, municipal garbage truck disposal, streetlights and proper water channels.

Areas such as Tingtibi, and Panbang in Zhemgang, and Denchi in Pemagatshel, and Khatoed in Gasa which are considered urban areas don’t have much access to such amenities, yet people living in these areas have to pay high taxes.

With the new Property Tax Bill introduced in the Parliament, the rate for commercial areas in districts such as Zhemgang will decrease.

Finance Minister, Namgay Tshering, said,  “With this property tax, it will increase the tax on places like Thimphu and decrease in places like Zhemgang.”

The property tax rate will be based on one’s land value but urban areas like Panbang, and Tingtibi although will have some decreases in tax rates, it does not diminish the fact that the taxes they will be paying, which will be in effect from 1 January 2023, is quite high.

Talking with Nangla Gup on Panbang, he shared that Panbang although classified as an urban area still looks like a rural village. “The planning and mapping for the development has been done from 2018, however, we still lack amenities and development has not come through, it is still on paper. We don’t have municipal garbage collector truck or streetlights as such, the only thing we have is the Nganglam-Panbang highway.”

The Gup added, “Everything is on paper, plans and development but we always fail in implementation. Getting the country developed is a far-fetched dream if this is how everything is going to work.”

According to him, people are currently paying high taxes, yet they don’t get to enjoy basic amenities. “Most people pay taxes amount as high as Nu 50,000 to Nu 60,000 whereas the least must be around Nu 1,500. In an area where we don’t have basic amenities as such, it is not fair for them to pay such high taxes.”

People living in these areas have been raising the issues and with no concrete sources of income, people have been facing the financial brunt. According to Thromde Thuemi, Tashi Choden, people of Tingtibi area have been pointing out the issues.

She said, “This is an issue that has been raised by the locals whenever a Member of Parliament or government officials have come to visit. We pay taxes as high as Nu 50,000 or Nu 60,000 per household, and without any concrete source of income, we rely on our children to pay high taxes and some rely on loans to pay the taxes.”

“We don’t get to enjoy basic amenities as such, but have  to pay high taxes, so it is not really a fair deal. People have been voicing out and pointing out the issues,” she added.

Talking with the Khatoed Gup, he shared that there have been complaints from the people. “Khatoed town is recognized as an urban area, but there are no amenities as such. It is in development but people have been complaining as they have to pay high taxes, but there is not much I can do.”

With people having to pay such high taxes in these areas without the basic amenities, the question of fairness comes into play. Is it fair for them to pay such high taxes yet not get any amenities to enjoy?

Although the Property Tax Bill of 2022 will decrease the rate of taxes on some areas, the taxes paid by the people, who have to rely on loans or income of their children to pay back the taxes, will still have a high tax.

“It is essentially a village. It might be recognized as an urban area but there is nothing that can be noted as an urban area. But as it is recognized as one, people still have to pay high electricity bills too,” added the Nangla Gup on Panbang.

With no civic amenities in the essentially rural areas, locals have to pay high taxes because it is recognized as an urban area.

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