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I-Ts looking to improve equations
May, 15th 2007
You will soon be able to calculate your tax outgo without turning to your friendly neighbourhood chartered accountant. The finance ministry is planning to introduce a basic formula for tax calculations as part of the new income-tax code.

The new piece of legislation will have simple mathematical formulae to make it more user friendly, a senior official involved in drafting the new law said. It will replace the existing Income-Tax Act, 1961, where tax calculations are written in words.

A preview of what is in store is reflected in the changes made recently in a provision relating to tax breaks for urban cooperative banks: a formula has been used for the first time to arrive at the tax benefit that will be available to a strong cooperative bank that takes over a weak bank. The tax break is meant to speed up mergers among cooperative banks and improve their financial performance.

This is just the beginning. There are several provisions in the income-tax legislation where tax payers need an easy method to calculate their outgo and savings, the official said. Policy managers have looked at tax legislation in countries such as Canada and Malaysia, that have demystified tax calculations.

Of course, the finance ministry will have to get the law ministrys consent to make any changes be it using simple language or even mathematical formulae. Since a precedence has been set, policy managers are hopeful this can be replicated to calculate the tax outgo for different classes of tax payers. There are nearly 3.5 crore tax payers in the country.

In due course, mathematical formulaecan be used even in the Customs, excise and service tax legislation, reckon tax experts. The language in the existing income-tax law is so complex that it tests the comprehension skills of most tax payers. Indications are the new income-tax code will be shorter, simpler and easy to comprehend.

Several redundant provisions in the Act will be removed. Provisions are also set to be re-grouped for easier interpretation. An attempt will also be made to reduce ambiguities and scope for varying interpretations by courts. The idea is to minimise litigation.

The first attempt to redraft the income-tax legislation was made over a decade ago byP Chidambaram as finance minister in the United Front government. However, the Bill could not be enacted.
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