A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about near-doubling of taxpayer base to 10 crore, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia today sought to contextualise the statement saying he was talking about “scope for expansion” and getting to that mark is “impossible”.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), however, said in a statement that the Prime Minister had “asked them to knock on the doors of the non-tax payers so as to increase the number of taxpayers to at least 10 crore”.
Addressing the inaugural session of the two-day annual conference of tax administrators yesterday, the Prime Minister had asked taxmen to legitimately aspire to have 10 crore taxpayers within tax bases as against 5.43 crore tax payers currently.
The conference was closed to media and Modi’s remarks were relayed by Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha and Adhia yesterday.
At the end of the conference today, Adhia briefed the reporters, where he referred to Sinha having said that the Prime Minister in his address had stated that out of about 25 crore households in the country, there may be 14-15 crore agriculture households.
Stating that this left 10 crore households, Adhia said, “Now, there is a scope for expansion, widening of tax net out of that 10 crore. He (Prime Minister) did not say that we should actually get 10 crore.”
“It is impossible to get 10 crore of taxpayers in this country because many of the non-agriculture households may also be below poverty line staying in urban areas. So, it is not possible to tax all the 10 crore people,” he said.
Modi, Adhia said, indicated about widening of the tax net. “There is no specific target or anything,” Adhia added.
Addressing the tax officers yesterday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Indian economy is in a transformational phase and emphasised the need to take advantage of the global changes that are reshaping the world economy.
Jaitley “stressed that India is bound to become a major manufacturing hub of the world. In this regard, reforms such as GST and a modern non-adversarial tax regime are crucial to catapult the share of manufacturing sector to 25 per cent of GDP”, the CBDT statement said.
A joint session of CBDT and CBEC was addressed by renowned novelist Chetan Bhagat, who spoke on ‘Taxing with Love’. He suggested that the tax departments should treat the tax payers as its “customers” and a tax-paying culture should be inculcated in the country by honouring top taxpayers.
He also offered certain practical solutions for simplification of forms and a user-friendly website.
The technical sessions of CBDT over the two-day period covered wide-ranging subjects like tax payer services, initiatives in e-governance, exchange of information with foreign jurisdictions, investigation into undisclosed foreign assets, litigation management and dispute resolution.
On the CBEC side, the deliberations covered subjects like analysis of revenue trends, strategy to mitigate litigation, expansion of digital footprint, facilitation of trade, impact of WTO trade facilitation agreement (TFA).
CBEC officers agreed that there was a need to focus on dispute resolution and thereby identify 20 topmost litigated issues and examine whether any intervention is required from the policy perspective.
As for CBDT, it was decided to increase voluntary acceptance of paperless assessment by pro-active engagement with all stakeholders through advertising and awareness campaigns, including through the departmental website.
“E-assessments will be fast-tracked as an incentive to the taxpayers to opt for e-assessment,” the CBDT statement said.