Nima | Gelephu

Gewog officials in Sarpang say they are not comfortable using the Bhutan Online Land Tax Payment System (BOLTs) launched in 2019.

The issue was raised in the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) held last week.

Local leaders say only a few people make online payment.

They proposed to collect the tax manually, justifying it was difficult to record if people paid the tax.

They also said since that, the land tax had to be deposited back to the gewog account, it led to some auditing problems when the tax was collected using the online system.

Today, the National Land Commission (NLC) transfers land tax collected online to the gewog CD accounts whereas, in the past, gewogs collected the tax directly from the people after obtaining clearances from the respective chiwog tshogpas.

Gewog officials claim that tshogpas issue the clearance after people clear their fallow lands.  The clearance ensures fallow lands are cleared to reduce wildlife threats to nearby plots that are cultivated.  Taxes were not collected if owners do not clear their fallow lands.

Gelephu gup, Ugyen Wangchuk, said, with the online payment system, nothing was clear on how the cash transactions were made to the gewogs. “There are no details of who paid the tax. We have to write a report yearly but, without this detail, it’s difficult. The revenue collected was deposited in a lump sum.”

He said with rural residents uneducated, they come to the gewog centre to pay the tax using the online system.

He also claimed wildlife damaged crops of many people in his gewog, as many left their fallow land without clearing.

NLC launched BOLTs in January 2019 to address inefficient practice of collection, administration, and management of land tax.

Local leaders said they raised the risk of lands remaining fallow and the feasibility of the online system when NLC provided training to use the online system.

Officials from Shompangkha gewog said people should also be given an option to pay the land tax directly to the gewog like in the past.

However, there are others, who feel the online system is better.

Ram Bahadur Monger from Khenpagaon, Samtenling, said it was easier to pay tax online. “We don’t have to walk till gewog centre anymore but I don’t know how to use the online payment system.”

He said threats from wildlife were increasing, as fallow lands nearby had been left in thick cover, uncleared. “The landowners should be made to clear the land at least.”

Sarpang dzongkhag’s land record officer, Wangdi, said there were no auditing problems with the LGs related to online land tax payment system. “The tax payment system is easy to use. There isn’t much problem.”

He said there were only a few cases of land left uncultivated, and that other regulations were in place to deal with it.

He explained BOLTs was initiated, as an individual had to travel till gewog centre to pay Nu 6 as land tax, after spending about Nu 1000 for travel. “NLC had also trained 20 people, including gups, gewog administration officers, mangmis, and gaydrungs from Sarpang on BOLTs before rolling out the system. The revenue collected was dispersed from time to time to the LG accounts.”