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India has 9K pages of I-T laws; worlds highest
November, 10th 2006

Did the controversy about the Saral, the Naya Saral and Saral III leave you confused? Well, confusing is just the word for the Indian income tax regime.

India has 9,000 pages of I-T legislation and has been ranked at number one in the world.

The data is presented in a study conducted by the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers which was released earlier this week. Titled, 'Paying TaxesThe Global Picture' the study states that higher rates often do not result in higher tax collections.

In the section on burden of tax compliance the study has taken the top 20 economies of the world according to the gross domestic product and compared their volume of income tax legislation.

India (GDP rank 10) is followed by United Kingdom (GDP-4) at 8,300 pages mainly due to a rewriting campaign to make laws simpler. And Australia (GDP rank 13) is at third spot with 7700 pages.

The largest economy USA has 5,100 pages of income tax legislation and no surprises hereSwitzerland, ranked 17th among economies has just 300 pages of income tax legislations.

The study also looked at smaller economies and found that the size of the economy has no relationship with the volume of the tax legislation.

Both at the individual level as well as the company level, the volume of income tax legislation has a consequence. With 9,000 pages of legislation it is not humanely possible for any human being to know all the laws. This brings in taxation advisers and consultants into play.

The study says "Countries need to reflect on the likely deterrent effect of ever increasing complexity of their tax legislation and the resulting probable reduction in their international competitiveness. Ultimately, when tax legislation becomes too voluminous compliance drops more through ignorance than deliberate evasion."

India also features among the top countries where business tax paid by companies are only a small part of the total business tax paid by them. In this list India is ranked 12.

The report says that while tax reforms often focus on income tax laws, for companies a lot of tax is paid through other taxes like customs and excise. The survey notes that reducing tax on corporate income has been the most popular form of reform and India has done so in the last two years apart from introducing VAT.

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