Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked the tax officials to remove fear of harassment from the minds of taxpayers and focus on five pillars of administration — revenue, accountability, probity, information and digitisation (RAPID).
Inaugurating the two-day Rajasva Gyan Sangam in New Delhi, Prime Minister asked the officials to “move towards digitisation” in a bid to make tax administration better and efficient and work towards bridging the “trust deficit”. Modi also suggested that officials should endeavour to remove “fear of harassment” from the minds of assesses and emphasised that their behaviour should be “soft and sober”, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said while briefing reporters about the meeting.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior tax administrators of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) are participating in the two-day annual conference.
Prime Minister also underlined the need for increasing the number of tax payers to 10 crore from 5.43 crore, at present.
Stating that the revenue department officials already know where the problem lies with regard to tax collection, Modi said after the two-day ‘Gyan Sangam’ the field officers should convert it to “Karma Sangam” so that the ideas generated could lead to concrete actions on the ground.
Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said Prime Minister has asked tax officials to build “bridge of confidence” between tax payers and tax officials so that they pay taxes without fear or harassment.
He said tax officials should act like “mentors of taxpayers” and not treat them as “tax evaders”.
“People of India are inherently honest. If you build trust then people will pay taxes and you will be able to achieve the target,” Modi said.
Prime Minister said while there should be a respect for the rule of law among all citizens and fear of the long arm of the law for those who evade taxes, people should not fear tax administrators.
During an hour-long interaction with the officials, Modi also underlined the need for tax administrators to engender trust in the system so that tax base can be enhanced.
As many as 15 officers from the CBDT and CBEC posed their questions to Prime Minister on various issues being faced by them in their regular work. The issues included dilemma over whether officials should act as law enforcement agency or taxpayer friendly agency while collecting due taxes from people.
Another suggestion from officers were to bring a “tax facilitation act” which would have rules for dealing with tax payers.
They also raised the issue of voluntary tax compliance, increasing tax base, upgradation of digital and physical infrastructure for tax administrators. Sinha said Prime Minister laid out certain goals and objectives for the officials to increase the tax base to 10 crore from 5.43 crore at present.
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Sinha said of the 25 crore households in the country, 15 crore are agriculturalists and hence the remaining 10 crore should be under the tax net.
Modi in his speech said 92 per cent of tax department revenue comes from TDS, advance tax and self assessment tax, while the remaining 8 per cent comes after scrutiny.
He said if 42,000 officials of CBDT are engaged for ensuring direct tax revenue, then the tax net should increase further.
Stating that the country is filled with “aspirational people”, Modi urged the taxmen to take steps so that people find it easier to pay taxes.
During the interaction, Modi said if someone Googles ‘how to pay taxes in India’, there will be seven crore results. If the question of ‘how not to pay taxes in India’ is put to Google, there would be 12 crore feeds.
Modi, however, emphasised that people in India mostly pay taxes and the number of people who want to evade it is less.
“People don’t have problem in paying tax. So there is no question of tax evasion. The issue is how much cooperative are we in dealing with people. He said you should behave like mentors with the people rather than evader… If you become taxpayer friendly, then taxes will automatically come to you,” Modi said.
Prime Minister also suggested tax officials should focus on simplification so the two-day brainstorming sessions could lead to better outcome with regard to tax payer services. CBDT Chairman Atulesh Jindal said the department will take steps to bridge the trust deficit with tax payers.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while addressing the tax officers also suggested that the departments should move towards digitisation.