Tax administration, heal thyself
C. Rangarajan, advisor to the prime minister, stated, appropriately on Financial Inclusion day, that “one need not disturb the structure of income tax system as it is now. But add a surcharge for income above [a] particular level. I believe as we go along, we need to raise more revenues and the people with larger incomes must be willing to contribute more”.
Note the populist appeal to the super-rich. They should be willing — or else, off with their heads (income). As discussed in my earlier article, Taxing the rich and other fantasies (IE, January 23), there is precious little evidence to support Rangarajan’s recommendation. What the data do suggest, as documented extensively below, is that the reason tax revenue is considerably below potential is because the middle income group, those earning between Rs 5 to Rs 10 lakh, is quite “unwilling” to pay taxes, even at an average tax rate of 10 per cent! And that the most “willing” are the super-rich, those earning above Rs 20 lakh a year. The raise tax rates recommendation should be junked, especially since stable tax rates have generated “good” tax revenue and allowed compliance to increase more than threefold from