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Transformation of Tax System

Madhukar N Hiregange 
on 20 January 2014

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Transformation of Tax Systems in India- We can definitely make a difference 

The recent elections results in Delhi indicate the disenchantment with the present regime. The promise of ending  “corruption” has encouraged the youth mainly as well as the common man to support possibilities of better days to come as some despondency has crept in.  This disease weakens the citizen as also the Country.

Presently India has the dubious distinction of being ranked at 130 + in 150 + countries examined in respect of worst  tax administration. A brief look at the tax affairs at the State level & the Centre in In

Central Level: A) Excise duty B) Customs C) Service Tax D) Income Tax. – Total collections: 12 Lakhs crores – Possible guestimated total leakage due to corruption 6 Lakh Crores

State Level: A) Commercial Taxes Dept. B) State Excise – Total collection : Rs. 7 Lakhs crores – Possible guestimated total leakage due to corruption – 3 Lakh crores.

This is due to the fact that in State tax departments across India including Karnataka the commercial tax dept is seen as a tyrant and extortionist. The promise of a simple, fair and transparent law is a mirage at present. The reasons are as under:

- Laws are loaded against the tax compliant : Many provisions included by the Commissioners stating that evasion is high. State Ministers normally putting their thumb impression as they have no clue what the tax is about!! Law in last 10 years being made for the law evader- but rarely applied to them. It is applied on the tax compliant.  

- Most tax officers hand in glove with the evader and at times even unofficial partners. The enormous amounts of monies even junior staff at CTO amass is evident in the few Lok Ayukta cases where they are caught. Officers want the law to be complicated as they can milk the entrepreneur.

- Laws are changed retrospectively often, demand made for past years- where one would not have collected.  In indirect tax where the tax is to be borne by the ultimate consumer the demands could well be much more than the margins earned.

- Rules made which fly in the face of logic – availing credit in the same month as date of invoice in a country like India are obviously for enabling the increase in corruption. Every law made allows for elbow room for interpretation and consequently chance to extract. The basic foundation of a democracy that law should be made by the Parliament has now been changed to laws made by the Tax officer, administered by the tax officer!!!

- More and more restrictions on credit and compliance taken to ridiculous levels of uploading all invoices on the system indicte a decaying society where trust and faith do not exist.  

- The target based tax administration is serving the unscrupulous officers as well as the tax evader. This draconian, unfair tax administration is increasingly becoming difficult to satisfy.

- Officers raise frivolous demands which have to be partially deposited even in genuine cases to go further in appeal. Matters are not decided for years together, every case of appealed against. There is no accountability for the Tax Officers which is the need of the hour.

- It is almost as if it is better to pay off the officer than face an unreasonable demand for long periods of litigation. However this invariably leaves a feeling of disgust and guilt. Many professionals are not happy with their work due to this practice.

- Almost all refund are priced at 5-10% of the total. The transaction cost other than the loss of dignity, trust in the system, undermines the tax law itself.

Invariably in most States the tax payer has given up on disputing as it is just not worth the time effort and fact that they have to pay in advance even most simple open and shut cases. The lack of any appellate activity in the States inspite of even changing laws and new imposts is a clear indicator of the truth that majority of matters are decided outside the system.

As far as the State Excise dept is concerned, the large enterprises are tax compliant but huge tax evasion is taking place in almost all the States.

As far as the Central Laws are concerned, the Income Tax officers who were better off now are competing for the medal for harassing the tax payer with their brothers/ sister in the Indirect taxes. The central excise law has become a little more stable leading to only limited extraction at the time of audits by the Internal Audit parties or the CAG teams. However the traditionally industries it appears continue to be immune from entering the tax compliant stream. Customs has also got a little better with the interaction with the tax officers reducing. Lately service tax law which has been changing frequently and not allowed to settle/ develop has become an area of enormous corruption and cause for concern. Even tax payers who are very well managed and informed face demands due to vagueness in the law. The cenvat credit law which was originally bought in to provide for avoiding cascading now has become a method of increasing/ augmenting revenue by restricting valid credits year after year.

In the last few months we have found the leaders of the main parties talking of tax reforms being necessary. But they have been talking for a long time. Matters such as transparency, corruption, accountability have been subjects which have been forgotten. Maybe time has come for us to demand the same from our elected leaders and support those who stand for the same. Each and every one of us needs to get onto the court and play rather than be a helpless victim. Also plan in such a way that we do not miss voting for a change.

Would like to end by saying – be the change you wish to see- Mahatma Gandhi.  


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