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The taxman with a funny bone!
September, 09th 2009

Who is Arbind Modi? Why is he so important to India inc? Is he a nice guy? Is he for higher taxes or lower taxes? Why is he the hottest guest on the tax conference circuit nowadays? Arbind Modi and his team are currently the stars of the Finance Ministry's tax department for having authored India's new direct tax code. The man refuses to do interviews, saying "bureaucracy must stay faceless".

But today we unmask him on the firm - to prove to you that revenue can have a sense of humour and Arbind Modi surely does.

Arbind Modi - Joint Secretary for Tax Policy and Legislation in the Ministry of Finance. He has also served as officer on special duty to the advisor to the finance minister and as Commissioner of Income Tax. Modi is an Economics graduate from the Delhi University and has a Masters in Public Administration from the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has contributed extensively to the Direct Tax framework in the country - name any committee or report and Modi is part of them all.

Modi and his team have for the past few years worked very closely with former finance minister P Chidamabaram to draft the Direct Tax Code 2009.

A code that is giving India Inc nightmares. At a nine hour conference in Mumbai, corporate titans of the tax world railed against the code and its inequities. But Modi took it all on the chin. His explanations may not have satisfied them, Arbind Modi proved that he could deliver tax blows with a punch-line!
Here are some of the comments he made after listening in to detailed corporate presentations!

"It's always a pleasure to come to Mumbai, particularly for any kind of technical discussion on tax. I think this city thrives on tax - both compliance and. Of course, the other part."

After A Lengthy E&Y Presentation:

"Excellent presentation... I don't think I would have been able to make this kind of a presentation so succinctly to bring out how the computation has to be done for various issues. I think I will take it with me because I need to make presentations elsewhere"
On errors in the code!

"As we came to the end we were tired. There were mistakes. We were absolutely tired, so every figure looked the same to us"

On DTC being equitable!

"We are the first ones to offer ourselves for taxation. The perquisites received by government officers are also now going to be subject to tax in the same way. It's not that we expect you alone to be fair, but we have offered ourselves also. Only class left out so far is the political class.  We may now work on that!"

Is MAT on assets constitutional?

"Somebody in the morning said I'm doubtful if this is constitutional, this is not an income tax. Yes, this is not an income tax. But this is a measure of ability to pay. And please see, now the Act is not known as Income Tax- it's Direct Tax!"

Final word!

"There can be hundreds of reasons for not paying tax. I have to find reasons for paying tax"

"I have a mole on my face, please give me an Income Tax exemption. A case can always be made!"

Well, funny man, Mr Modi! And why not- when it comes to the Direct Tax Code, Arbind Modi and his team will be laughing all the way to the bank!

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