Forget the government’s fiscal concerns or the limitations of the Budget as a policy tool, the common person’s expectations from the annual financial statement of the government have known no bounds. This time too, the official MyGov portal has received thousands of proposals from people, as the Budget 2023-24 is around the corner.
The proposals range from innovative solutions to serious questions of public finance and resource management, to the likes of the following: impose a punitive tax on DJs and other sound boxes with an output of over 60 decibels; discourage consumption of “junk foods” with a heavy sin tax.
Of course, taxation of goods and services is now largely the function of the Goods and Services Tax Council, with only basic customs duty being the major indirect tax in the domain of the Budget, but that doesn’t deter the taxpayers from seeking such new imposts on what they think are “demerit items.”
Some taxpayers also seek rewards for their high compliance, in the form of redeemable points to avail themselves of various services at relatively low costs. Others suggest allotment of Aadhaar, PAN, mobile and bank account numbers at the time of the birth of a person.
Another proposal put up on the online platform – which is meant “to get the government closer to the common man” and facilitate “an interface of healthy exchange of ideas and views” – is that all perks and provisions of the legislators ought to be withdrawn! According to one person who used the portal to put his views across, pension must be payable to a member of legislature only if he/she gets elected for a minimum of three terms.
Welfare and inclusivity measures for the LGBTQ community and incentives for businesses have also been proposed. There are a few who want the Budget to incentivise businesses to shift their offices away from the large metro cities, so that urban congestion is eased, and pollution is curbed.
All this while, North Block mandarins are busy working on the nitty-gritties of tax proposals and finalising spending budgets for ministries.
Every year, to foster the spirit of ‘Jan Bhagidari’, the Department of Economic Affairs, invites suggestions from citizens, to make the Budget-making process participative and inclusive. Over 8,500 suggestions were put forward by citizens during November 24 and December 10 when the window was open.
Other suggestions of course include giving more autonomy to states for implementation of economic policies based on local developments and demography and relief on the personal tax front.
Significantly, a number of suggestions have also focussed on doing away with wasteful schemes and freebies and instead allocating more funds to sectors like health and education. Proposals have also been submitted for improving work conditions of teachers and bank employees as well as timely payment of salaries to government staff to ensure high productivity and cut down on corruption.
But the most popular and common suggestions include a restructuring of the income tax slabs, reverting to the Old Pension Scheme and higher health insurance benefits. With rising inflation, most citizens are of the view that the current income tax slabs are very low and these should be reviewed to make the exemption limit at least Rs 5 lakh, if not Rs 7.5 lakh. At present, income up to Rs 2.5 lakh per year is exempt from income tax. Increasing the investment window under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act is also a popular recommendation.
The Union Budget 2023-24 is expected to be presented on February 1 and these proposals give the government an indication of the people’s requirements and sentiments. In the past, some of the suggestions on the portal have been incorporated in the annual Budget. A number of state governments, too, have taken to crowd-sourcing proposals for their Budgets.