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Direct Taxes Code needs fresh look, I-T dept to be tough on tax evaders:
September, 18th 2012

Finance Minister P Chidambaram today said that the Direct Taxes Code (DTC), initiated by him during his earlier tenure, needed a fresh look.

After a meeting with top officials of Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), he also said the tax department has to be firm with tax evaders for whom non-compliance is a business.

"DTC has gone through various versions...I need time to look at DTC. I am only 28 days old... It requires a fresh look", Chidambaram said in reply to a question at a press conference.

The idea of DTC, which seeks to replace the Income Tax Act, 1961, was mooted by Chidambaram as Finance Minister in the UPA-1 government and lot of drafting was done when he was shifted to Home in 2008.

His successor Pranab Mukherjee introduced the DTC Bill in 2010 which also included a number of new provisions, followed by changes suggested by Parliament Committee on Finance. The controversial provisions relating to retrospective tax amendments and GAAR were enacted in the Finance Bill, 2012, which are under review.

To a question whether General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) would get postponed again, Chidambaram said, he was awaiting the report of the Shome Committee, which is looking into the concerns expressed by foreign and domestic investors.

On the indirect tax collections, the Minister said that he was hopeful that the target of Rs 5.05 lakh crore during the current fiscal would be met.

Chidambaram said the department would have to be firm with the small number of non-compliant businesses.

"Most people would like to be compliant with tax laws. It is only a very small number that wishes to be non-compliant. I have told the department that we have to be firm with the small number of those non-compliant people", he said. Chidambaram said he has asked CBEC officers to focus more on top 100 tax payers to achieve the indirect tax collection target of Rs 5.05 lakh crore in the current fiscal.

"If you take customs and excise zone wise, top 100 tax payers of the customs, top 100 in excise and top 100 in service tax account for about 95 per cent of taxes collected. "So really, each charge has to focus on top 100 ... All the others contribute only about 5 per cent. So if we maintain an interactive, friendly tax administration with them ... we will achieve our target," he said.

The Minister further said that April-July collection figures of indirect taxes do not reflect the trend, and added, "the numbers beyond August will be more encouraging". Indirect tax collection during April-July showed an increase of 22 per cent against annual target of 27 per cent.

Chidambaram also made a case for de-centralisation of powers saying that tax administration of a large country like India cannot be run from Delhi.

"Most Chief Commissioners are naturally resentful of the fact that powers are getting centralised. I have assured that powers will be de-centralised. Tax administration of large country like India cannot be run by fiat from Delhi. So large number of powers will be de-centralised and that will attended to next week", he added.

"It's only a small number which makes its business to be non-complaint with tax laws. I have held this philosophy very long ... We should be friendly to the large number of tax payers who wish to be complaint with tax laws and we have to be firm with the small numbers (who do not comply) with tax laws", the Minister added.

Referring to Service Tax, Chidambaram said that although 16 lakh people are registered for paying Service Tax, 10 lakh of them do not pay the levy.
"... This could be out of ignorance, this could be because they do not have adequate assistance to understand how to pay service tax ... So we are going to launch a massive campaign that people must pay taxes and the tax administration will help them pay taxes and will be friendly to tax payer," he said.

Chidambaram said that officials should not harass honest tax payers and make it taxpayer friendly.

"We are not going to be regarded as the hounding tax administration. That's not our approach at all. We will be a friendly tax administration. We will be friendly to all those people who are compliant with taxes and I believe bulk of the people pay tax," he said.

The Minister said that tax administration should be such that business men are able to devote more time to his work rather than spending long hours outside tax office.

"Business men must be allowed to get on with business. He must be allowed to spend his time and efforts energy on business and his interaction with tax department must be as minimal as possible so that he pays his taxes and gets on with life," Chidambaram said.

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