Inaugurating the two-day Rajasva Gyan Sangam here on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked senior tax officials to aim for widening the tax net from the present 5.4 crore households to 10 crore households — all non-agricultural income households — mainly, by changing their attitudes towards taxpayers.
“The PM’s message was clear: the approach has to be to make it very easy to pay taxes and very difficult to avoid paying them,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha told reporters after the end of the inaugural session of the annual conference.
In his address, Mr. Modi gave a five-point charter to tax administrators embodied in the word ‘RAPID.’ These are: revenue, accountability, probity, information and digitisation.
He pointed out that while nearly 92 per cent of India’s tax revenue comes from self-assessments, advance tax payments and tax deducted at source, the 42,000 taxmen raise barely 8 per cent through assessments and scrutiny of returns.
“The Prime Minister said that the people of this country are not dishonest… and have no problem in paying taxes, but somewhere they have some problem… understand that problem and try to remove it… If you become taxpayer-friendly, then taxes will automatically come to you,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said, briefing the media.
He said the Prime Minister asked the officers to ensure their behaviour is “soft” and “sober” and change their attitude so that the “fear of harassment” is erased from the minds of taxpayers.
Mr. Modi said the query “how to pay taxes in India” throws up seven crore responses on Google. Similarly, the search engine gives 12 crore responses to the query “how not to pay taxes in India.”
In the session, about 15 officers were invited to make suggestions and pose questions to Mr. Modi.
One shared the officers’ perennial dilemma over whether to act as a law enforcement agency or be a taxpayer-friendly one. Another suggested that the Centre lay down the norms for collections in a tax-facilitating legislation.
Mr. Modi urged the officers to turn the brainstorming sessions in the Gyan Sangam into a Karma Sangam, so that the ideas generated from the conference lead to concrete action on the ground.
Responding to a question, the Revenue Secretary said that the inaugural session did not throw up any specific suggestions — other than changing attitudes of taxmen — on how non-tax paying non-agricultural income households could be brought into the tax net. Specific solutions are expected to emerge by the end of the conference.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior tax administrators of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) are participating in the conference.
2015 Kashmir Despatch