Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday asked tax officers to build a “bridge of trust” with assessees to achieve collection targets without coercion.
Addressing the inaugural session of the two-day annual conference of tax administrators, Modi asked officials to legitimately aspire to bring 10 crore of non-agricultural income tax-payers within the net by leveraging instruments such as the government’s ‘Give it Up’ initiative for consumers to voluntarily give up LPG subsidy.
Asking tax officers to behave as mentors and not invaders, Modi said, “India is today at a unique stage in its history, and the high aspirations of its people need to be nurtured by the Government. There should be respect for the rule of law among all citizens, and even fear of the long arm of the law for those who evade taxes.”
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Modi told officers at the Rajasva Gyan Sangam-Annual Conference of Tax Administrators 2016 that people within the country have no problem in paying taxes but added that somewhere they have some “taqleef” (problem). He asked the officers to understand that “taqleef” and try to remove it.
The fear of harassment can be in the mind of people so you should try to remove that, he said. Modi said that 90 per cent of 5.43 crore taxpayers e-file their returns and 60 per cent of the refunds are issued within 30 days.
“The Prime Minister said we should raise our sights higher. We should make it very easy for people to file taxes and we should legitimately aspire to bring 10 crore taxpayers within our tax base. This is in the context of having 25 crore (tax-paying) households, of the 125 crore people that we have,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha told reporters later.
Sinha said of the 25 crore households in the country, 15 crore are agriculturalists who needed to be brought under the tax net. He, however, did not specify a timeline for the target and termed the figure as “aspirational”.
Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said the Prime Minister also cited the example of Google search results with reference to the number of taxpayers in the country.
“The Prime Minister gave the example of Google, which he referred to as ‘Google guru’. He said if you search how to pay taxes in India, there are 7 crore results, but if you search how not to pay taxes in India, then there are 12 crore results,” said Adhia.
Outlining a five-point charter for tax administrators — RAPID, an acronym for Revenue, Accountability, Probity, Information and Digitisation — Modi asked tax officers to turn the “Gyan Sangam into Karma Sangam”, by translating ideas generated from the conference into concrete action on the ground.
The Prime Minister also invited suggestions from officers, who then came up with pointers on digitisation, voluntary tax compliance, increasing the tax base, and upgradation of digital and physical infrastructure for tax administrators.
Other suggestions by officials were to have a tax facilitation act applicable at both the central and state levels, alongside the move towards digitisation, including all internal communication among tax officers across the country.
The Prime Minister also said tax officials should focus on simplification, especially with regard to services.
This was the first time that the two revenue boards — the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) – were holding a simultaneous conference.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra and the chairmen of CBDT and CBEC were also a part of the first day of the conference.