The income tax saga

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The income tax saga

Squeeze the salaried class, allow professionals to evade

DIRECT tax statistics appear healthy. The number of persons filing income tax returns increased by about 65 per cent in the previous financial year. The share of direct taxes in total tax revenue has seen an over 52 per cent jump, and the collection has showed a record 5.98 per cent tax to GDP ratio. Credit goes to demonetisation that ushered in a digital era, which made vigilance easy for the tax authorities. While the squeeze bore results, it appears that the claims of widening the tax base have been false. Salaried people continue to pay tax even before they receive their pay cheques, but the same is not true of professionals such as doctors, chartered accountants and lawyers. Some of them sometimes forget to pay tax. It is common knowledge that private hospitals and educational institutes mint money, but their income is almost tax free because they know how to outsmart the system.

Moreover, the claim of the tax department appears pompous — 1,40,139 taxpayers disclosed income above Rs 1 crore in assessment year 2017-18, that is about a 60 per cent growth compared to 88,649 taxpayers in 2014-15. Is it something that the country of 125 crore people, where majority of them are extremely poor, should be proud of? In fact, it reflects that the gulf between the rich and the poor is only widening. The concentration of wealth is with 300-odd super rich whose gross income is more than Rs 500 crore.

The country is on a dangerous growth path as the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. The divide is widening not only in terms of income, but also in getting access to modern education, quality healthcare, better living conditions and rewarding employment opportunities. It is, therefore, necessary to overhaul the income and expenditure policies on the principle of distributive justice. All well-paid doctors, chartered accountants, advocates, private hospitals and institutes, and rich farmers must be brought into the tax net, so that the state has enough resources to transform the lives of the poor.