Inclusion, accountable tax regime prime focus of long-haul reforms
November, 07th 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said economic reforms for his government would be a “marathon” towards inclusive growth with an emphasis on backing small entrepreneurs with credit and ensuring an easier business environment, non-discretionary natural resource allocation and a responsible and accountable tax regime.
Inaugurating the Delhi Economics Conclave, he said reforms for him meant transforming the nation and to make the lives of all citizens, especially the poor, better, rather than scoring points at intellectual discussions. Besides reducing graft, eliminating energy subsidies and targeting state benefits to the really needy, the government, Modi said, was also focused on empowering sectors that are large employment generators but are smaller in size and non-corporate in form.
“Reform is not an end in itself. For me, it is just a way station on the long journey to the transformation of India… Reforming to transform is a marathon, not a sprint,” Modi said, adding that by every major economic indicator, the country was doing better than when he had taken office 17 months ago.
On Thursday, the government unveiled a road map to revive the debt-laden state electricity boards, as per which state governments will take over 75% of the boards’ outstanding debt by end-FY17 and the Centre will give liberal support for states to cut electricity pilferage and theft, and coal linkages to power units will be reconfigured to cut fuel costs. A committee appointed by the government also proposed a new bankruptcy code that helps salvage stressed assets and enables creditors to take management control of troubled firms before it is too late. The government is also keen to usher in the goods and services tax (GST) without any further delay, given the potential of the multi-point tax on value-addition to reduce cascading of taxes and push economic growth.
As part of the government’s commitment to reduce tax litigation, cut down tax arrears and to make the tax administration accountable, Modi has asked the finance ministry to change the performance appraisal system of income tax officers to reflect whether or not their orders and assessments have been upheld on appeal. “This will deter corruption and also motivate officers to pass correct orders,” Modi said.
Accordingly, error-free and well-reasoned tax demands made following all principles of natural justice and are not struck down by courts subsequently would earn an officer a good grade, not frivolous, high-pitched tax claims that do not stand the test of appeal. At present there are about 3 lakh direct tax disputes before various authorities including commissioner (appeals), tribunals and various courts. Multinational companies are facing tax demands on alleged extra income of about Rs 2.6 lakh crore on their cross-border transactions.
Modi emphasised on his administration’s reliance on technology which would bring efficiency not only in tax assessment but also in the auction of natural resources and in targeting subsidies. This has helped in issuing 90% of the tax refunds to assessees within 90 days. Modi also asked the income tax department to adopt electronic scrutiny of returns which does not necessitate taxpayers to visit the officers.
In the 17 months since the NDA came to power, 19 crore people were brought into the banking system under the Jan Dhan Yojana, which now have a total balance of almost Rs 26,000 crore, Modi said, terming the ability to make and receive electronic payments transformational.
The purpose of the reforms, Modi said, is to empower people so that they can be job creators rather than job seekers. The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana banks have provided more than 60 lakh loans to small businesses for a total of nearly Rs 38,000 crore, said Modi, adding that by conservative estimates, it has laid the foundation for creating 12 million new jobs. Also, RuPay, the domestic card scheme from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), now accounts for 36% of all credit and debit cards used in India.
The PM said the tax department has assessed unaccounted wealth of Rs 6500 crore earlier and an extra Rs 4000 crore under the black money law.