Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told the tax department to raise the number of income tax payers in India from the current 5.43 crore to 10 crore. He was addressing tax administrators at Rajasva Gyan Sangam, jointly organised by the two revenue wings, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), in the Capital.
“Within the country, we have 5.43 crore taxpayers. Of them, 90% are e-filing and 60% of the refunds are issued within 30 days. The PM said we should raise our sights higher. We should make it very easy for people to file taxes and that we should legitimately aspire to achieve 10 crore taxpayers within our tax base. This is in the context of having 25 crore households, of the 125 crore people that we have,” minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha told mediapersons after the PM’s address.
The income tax department has 42,000 officers, yet only 8% of the revenue comes from scrutiny of returns. As much as 92% of direct tax revenue comes from tax deducted at source (TDS) of mostly salaried people, advance taxes and self-assessment taxes.
The prime minister outlined a five-point charter for tax administrators — RAPID: R for revenue, A for accountability, P for probity, I for information, and D for digitisation. He urged the officers to turn Gyan Sangam into Karma Sangam, so that the ideas generated from this conference lead to concrete action on the ground.
Nearly 15 tax officials, five of them assistant commissioners with four-five years of experience, offered their views to Modi. These officials raised several key issues faced by them on field, including whether tax enforcement should be our priority or tax friendly measures. Second, there should be a tax facilitation act. Third, there should be some norms set up for collecting tax from people and that should apply both to central and state governments. And also there came a suggestion that the income tax Act should be in local languages.
Stating that people should not fear tax administrators, PM Modi said at the beginning of the two-day conference, that Indians inherently are honest and asked the taxmen to build a “bridge of trust” so as to achieve tax collection targets without coercion. “You should behave like mentors to people rather than invaders. Don’t presume that every one is a tax evader,” revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia quoted Modi as saying at the conference.
Highlighting shortcomings in the system, Modi said a query on search engine Google on ‘how to pay taxes in India’ throws up seven crore answers, but a query on ‘how not to pay taxes in India’ gives out 12 crore results.