Sinha: Surcharge on super-rich fine

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Yashwant Sinha Yashwant Sinha
SummaryA higher income tax rate for the “super-rich” may be a bad idea as it would be a “powerful disincentive” for them to comply, but a surcharge, being temporary in nature, could still be tried, according to former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

BJP leader endorses higher dividend tax for wealthy but asks if UPA has stomach for it

A higher income tax rate for the “super-rich” may be a bad idea as it would be a “powerful disincentive” for them to comply, but a surcharge, being temporary in nature, could still be tried, according to former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. In an interview to MK Venu for Rajya Sabha TV, Sinha also endorsed the idea of increasing tax on dividend income above a threshold. This, he said, can be done by making dividends beyond a level taxable in the hands of the recipients also, in addition to the levy at the company level, so as to take the effective rate to close to 30%, the marginal income tax rate at present.

On the proposal to increase the tax dividends for promoters and high net-worth shareholders, Sinha said: “It is a very unpopular thing to do but there is a philosophical issue here. I am convinced that dividend income in the hands of the recipient should be taxed.... There are high net-worth individuals who are receiving all their income in dividend, which is not taxed... Because there are promoters holding 20% or 30% in the company and then are investing in instruments which are not taxed. So these high net-worth

individuals end up paying no tax. So if they (the government) have the stomach for it, please go ahead and do it.”

When asked about his view on increasing the tax on the super-rich, he said: “I would any day place more emphasis on compliance than merely increasing tax rates... If you increase the tax rates, then the same people who are already in the tax net will end up paying more and it will become a powerful disincentive for paying taxes.” He, however, suggested that a surcharge — say, 10% — on people with taxable income of above R50 lakh or R1 crore a year might be a doable option, as it would not amount to tweaking the rates. “So if he (the finance minister) imposes a surcharge on the rich after a certain cut-off, then I won’t disagree.” A surcharge is essentially a tax on tax.

Finance minister P Chidambaram recently gave credence to the idea of increasing the tax on the super-rich a bit to address the fall in revenue buoyancy, saying that the “argument was worth considering”. FE

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