June 23, 2014

motivate the honest taxpayers

Below is an Editorial I contributed for the newspaper I work for presently:

Motivate the honest taxpayer

The honest taxpayer in India, whether an individual or a corporate, needs to be encouraged further and incentivised by the government of India and its finance ministry if more revenues are to be raised.

The news that the current government is thinking of starting a scheme to settle pending income tax tax disputes between the corporate/individual taxpayer and the Income Tax Department through a one-time settlement offer. Disputes between corporate or individual taxpayers and the IT Dept arises primarily because IT Dept raises demands of a tax liability much higher than the tax already paid by the corporate/individual taxpayer. The tax payer contests such a demand and the cases go on for years due to heavy backlog in the IT tribunals. 

Realistically speaking to get the corporate taxpayer to settle such a demand will mean asking it to pay only a fraction of the demand amount. If higher amounts were to be asked for in the settlement then the companies and other tax payers will prefer to continue contesting the cases in the tribunals.

Proposals such as this or the tax amnesty one floated by the previous government are not in the best interests of the honest tax payer. A dispute settlement or a tax amnesty scheme may rake in some revenues but it will also lose the confidence of the honest taxpayers who will see merit in evading tax or contesting tax demands.  

If the government of India thinks the IT Department has raised more tax demand from taxpayers than it should have then the correct thing to do would be to drop the earlier demand notices and raise new ones with accurate demand amounts. Else, the IT Department should not be forced to settle off-court under a government scheme.

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