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Governance

Surge pricing in railways is Suresh Prabhu's deliberate self-goal

Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu’s latest move of “surge pricing fare system” is a gambit to reduce finance minister Arun Jaitley’s pain, who looks all set to soon adopt country’s messy public transport behemoth. If everything goes by the plan, the 93-year old Rail Budget would cease to exist from the next financial year i.e. FY […]Read More »

Why Vajpayee stands taller than Rao, Manmohan and Modi put together

In India, privatising a public sector company is perhaps a bigger challenge than contesting an electoral battle or even conducting a nuclear test. Don’t see it as an incongruous claim. This may well be a credible reality if one looks at the 25-year-long history of India’s economic liberalisation. In two-and-a-half decades of economic reforms, despite […]Read More »

Modi's war on black money is a let-down, amnesty schemes cheat honest taxpayers

If one pays his or her taxes honestly and does not expect any favours from the government, he or she has every right to show angst over this never-ending business of amnesties to tax swindlers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi repudiated history when he, during his last Mann Ki Baat, reminded people of the September 30 […]Read More »

Special Category for Andhra will remain elusive

In February 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu that he would consider conferring the special category status to his state. Apart from this privilege, Naidu has been demanding a special package for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh after it was carved out from the erstwhile composite […]Read More »

India needs a water-sensitive food trade policy

If one lists the nations most suited to produce wheat, sugarcane, cotton and soybean, China and Egypt will definitely stand atop on historical, geographical and climatic counts. World’s largest river Nile flows in Egypt which every year collects fertile soil from different countries in Africa and deposits it in its delta. On the other side […]Read More »

Modi sarkar and telcos have both hung up on the consumers

Do you get full signal on your mobile? Is your data speed fast enough? Have mobile companies started compensating you for call drops? If your answers are a resounding “no” (naturally, they would!) then, more than the government, we ourselves are responsible. We Indians, afflicted with a strange kind of amnesia, tend to forget the […]Read More »

Modi's foreign trips can wait. Indian trade needs emergency landing

Howsoever spectacular Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic campaign might have been, the fact remains the void in the trade diplomacy has grown faster than ever. If the government’s own Economic Survey is to be believed, India’s foreign trade has gained momentum over the last decade with a flurry of free and preferential trade agreements signed […]Read More »

Modi sarkar should bet on services for dream growth

If one observes the samurais of growth driving the GDP rate above seven per cent, one wouldn’t find them in the swanky corporate offices of Mumbai and Delhi, but in the markets close to one’s home. These growth warriors make our lives easier by running eateries, repairing shops and providing dozens of similar services and […]Read More »

Don’t make India a circus of cartels and monopolies

Facebook’s Free Basics trial was so legendary that one Ganesh could double the yield from his fields with the knowledge FB-patented internet facilitated. While, advertisements are notorious for making lofty claims, this one goes beyond limit. Considering the state of agriculture in India, this can’t even be an exception let alone a norm. As it […]Read More »

Let’s fix the system instead of opting out

Allahabad High Court passed an interesting order last month, directing the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that from the academic year beginning 2016, children of all officials serving with the government, including judiciary, local bodies and representatives of people, must send their children to study only in government primary schools, failing which the […]Read More »

That is retrograde, Mr Jaitley

An important step in clearing our institutional financial system of the cobwebs it has gathered over the years has now been reversed, with Mr. Arun Jaitley announcing deferment of his plan to set up an independent public debt management authority, which he had promised in the budget presented earlier this year. Till now, Reserve Bank […]Read More »

Coalgate Revisited

  The auction of 33 of the 204 coal mines, whose allocations were cancelled by the Sup¬re¬me Court, has just been completed. The auction has brought the government a ‘windfall gain’ of Rs 2.07 lakh crore for 19 operational blocks and 13 about-to-open blocks which were put under the hammer, against Rs 1.86 lakh crore […]Read More »

Will Federalism at Work Let Populism Thrive ?

The just released recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission’s will have far- reaching consequences for the states of the Indian Union, with 42 percent of the central divisible pool of resources now going to them, as compared to the existing 32 percent provided by the Thirteenth Finance Commission. In terms of resources now available to […]Read More »

Modi’s war on black money is a let-down, amnesty schemes cheat honest taxpayers


If one pays his or her taxes honestly and does not expect any favours from the government, he or she has every right to show angst over this never-ending business of amnesties to tax swindlers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi repudiated history when he, during his last Mann Ki Baat, reminded people of the September 30 deadline as the last opportunity to declare their undisclosed income under the new amnesty scheme.

The prime minister may claim this to be the “last” opportunity, but the fact is that successive governments have been mollycoddling tax evaders with amnesties almost every decade.

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Amenities may not have increased the number of honest taxpayers, but every successive government has passionately made each amnesty scheme more lucrative than the previous one for tax evaders.

Under the new Income Declaration Scheme 2016, people are liable to pay 45 per cent (30 per cent tax + 25 per cent penalty) tax on the unaccounted wealth they declare.

The scheme is operational till September 30. No scrutiny or inquiry will be done under the Income Tax Act, Wealth Tax Act or Benami Assets Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, on declarations made under the scheme.

The income tax department will not make any inquiry on the declarant’s sources of income, payment of tax, surcharge and penalty.

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Amnesty schemes are morally corrosive, therefore, around the globe, governments resort to them in extreme situations to avoid injustice to honest taxpayers.

However, in India repeated amnesty schemes have already demolished their ethical premise. Now, the massive and recurring failures of tax amnesties have become a greater challenge to the tax administration.

Still, governments are unable to wean themselves away from this.

The Modi government is the second government in the past 65 years (three schemes in 1965) which has brought two amnesty (after paying tax) schemes for tax evaders in just two years of its rule.

Surprisingly, last year, the NDA government’s first attempt at amnesty was a super flop. The amnesty window under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, garnered a paltry Rs 2,262 crore of tax as only 638 individuals and entities declared their unaccounted overseas wealth to the tune of a mere Rs 3,770 crore.

The long history of failed amnesty schemes signals a mysterious sympathy for tax evaders in our political system. Within four years of independence, India witnessed its first voluntary disclosure scheme.

The Tyagi scheme (launched by then finance and expenditure minister Mahavir Tyagi) failed miserably as tax evaders had no faith in the amnesty assured in the scheme.

The scheme garnered just Rs 10-11 crore as tax against the disclosure of Rs 70 crore. The year of the India-Pakistan war, 1965, marked three such initiatives.

The Six Forty (60 per cent tax) scheme failed because of the high rate of taxation.

The government’s effort to collect black money through the National Defence Gold Bond of 1965 also fell flat owing to the unwillingness of those with black money. The Voluntary Disclosure Scheme of October 1975, during the Emergency, with a comparatively better tax and amnesty offering.

It, however, added only Rs 241 crore to the government’s kitty. In 1978, the scheme for demonetising currency notes of Rs 1,000 did not yield much result. To facilitate the investment of black money, a special bond was issued in 1981 with a tax-free return, which also met the same fate.

The income tax department’s concessions (1985) on disclosure of black money, Indira Vikas Patra (1986) for the investment of black money and the National Housing Deposit Scheme of 1991 also failed to extract black income.

The Foreign Exchange Remittance Scheme and National Development Bond of 1991 had the provision for amnesty on the disclosure of black money. These bonds were relatively successful but the Gold Bond Scheme of 1993 failed again.

The VDIS of 1997 was the only relatively successful scheme which garnered Rs 9,729 crore as tax against Rs 33,697 crore black money disclosures. Over the years, the design of black money amnesty schemes has not changed much except the rates of tax and penalty.

These schemes have failed to encourage trust about confidentiality of declarations.

However, black money amnesties have taken a heavy toll on the enthusiasm and credibility of the tax administration.

Not only does the honest taxpayer feel cheated but also the repeated amnesties have created expectations of more such chances in the future among tax evaders.

After studying the last three schemes, the Wanchoo committee had stated in 1971, “We are convinced that any more disclosure schemes would not only fail to achieve the intended purpose of unearthing black money but would have a deleterious effect on the level of compliance among the taxpaying public and on the morale of the administration. We are, therefore, strongly opposed to the idea of the introduction of any general scheme of disclosure either now or in the future.”

In 1985, the Shankar Acharya committee observed, “With the incentives for black income generation unaltered (or worse, enhanced), there is little reason to credit VDS with any long-term effectiveness in the fight against black incomes.”

Going by history, it’s highly unlikely that this new amnesty will be the last one.

As Prime Minister Modi said in his Mann Ki Baat, tax evasion is a habit and some old habits die hard. We can also assume that amnesties to tax evaders are also an old habit of successive governments that is hardly likely to die.

Article first appeared in dailyo.in

Finance

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Modi government has got carried away by its make-believe growth data

  Economic growth isn’t achieved merely by change of governments, or by a series of electoral victories. Although governments keep making tall claims and paint rosy pictures in front of public, they themselves don’t let it get to their head as they know growth results only when a host of factors fire in tandem. However, […]Read More »

4 disastrous effects of demonetisation that Modi ignored

In spite of several inefficiencies, fortunately, India never witnessed a bank-run or monetary crisis parallel to the scale in Europe or America. However, the chaos and long queues that engulfed banks across India now perfectly mirror the plight the Greeks faced last year, albeit for different reasons. Demonetisation is a rudimentary monetary instrument of the […]Read More »

Modi's historic move against black money brings chaos now, gains later

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented move to temporary demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is expected to bring in a host of positives, it will also set off major administrative and logistical challenges at the outset, not to mention the plight of common people. The government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will […]Read More »

Diwali or not, India can't boycott Chinese goods

Last fortnight, close on the heels of the rise of firecracker nationalism against Chinese goods on social media, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was busy making adjustments for yuan’s entry into India’s foreign exchange reserves. Not only RBI, most of the global central bankers too had to alter metrics of their forex reserves after yuan’s […]Read More »

Despite $10 billion in tax net, Modi sarkar's amnesty is a colossal failure

Despite the long history of failed tax amnesty schemes, the Narendra Modi government tried its luck with tax pardons, but to no avail. Howsoever pliable the statistics might be, the fact remains that declarations of Rs 65,250 crore under the black money disclosure scheme could attract just a moderate success for the NDA government. However, […]Read More »

Modi must walk the talk on GST

Even if one doesn’t buy everything that Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in his Parliament speech on Goods and Services Tax (GST), one should acknowledge that this is one of the most crucial structural indirect tax reforms in the last 25 years of liberalisation. This may not effectively clamp down on inspector raj, or turn […]Read More »

GST Bill an example of half-baked and vague reform

Contrary to the euphoria and costlier-cheaper headlines, the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill 2014 doesn’t spell out even the outline of the GST that India is expected to get in the future. The passing of the GST Bill is just the beginning of a tedious political and operational voyage that should ultimately result in the implementation […]Read More »

Raghuram Rajan, darling of Dalal Street, ‘devil’ for Delhi Durbar

  Sometimes words speak louder than actions. If nowhere, then at least in India. RBI chief Raghuram Rajan has fallen victim to his own candid words (read speeches) on issues of political import. However, his legacy doesn’t lie in his articulations as a blunt economist but as a top-class, innovative and professional central banker. And here […]Read More »

5.80 lakh crore in bad loans: Let's pray for India's bleeding banks

The Rs 13 lakh-crore pile of bad loans of India’s public sector banks now amounts to more than the GDP of countries like New Zealand, Kenya, Oman and Uruguay. A new IMF report states Indian banks are in a poor state compared to the notoriously messy banking of China.The financial results of major public sector […]Read More »

Modi government has actually worked hard to deliver on black money

  After facing severe criticism for its lofty electoral promises on bringing black money to India, Modi sarkar appears to have stuck its neck out on dealing with the issue. The Modi-led government, running past the two-year mark in office, has taken some calculated risks to go ahead on curbing black money. To promote transparency, the government […]Read More »

How India's wealthy are milking billions off subsidy

Do you think the politics of subsidy is only confined around lower and middle economic classes? If yes, then you would wonder how subsidies worth rupees one crore go into the pockets of the rich every year, and that too via merely seven products and services. The subsidy bill may notch up if one takes […]Read More »

India’s three-tiered economy needs bottoms-up approach

Has finance minister Arun Jaitley got it right? If one looks at the economy at hand, the answer would possibly be “Yes”. India is now a three-speed economy.  Double-digit growth is confined to a section that comprises sectors such as e-commerce, travel and stock markets and accounts for 30 per cent of the GDP. Another […]Read More »

India’s Trade Gloom

  Not many years have ended with gloomier prospects for Indian trade. The gloom is not just because of the contraction in exports for 12 months in a row. It is also because India’s role and participation in global trade is becoming increasingly insignificant. The insignificance was evident from the approach to the Nairobi Ministerial. […]Read More »

Budget 2016: Modernising rural economy must be Modi's mission

Last fortnight, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned crop insurance in his Maan ki Baat programme, people well aware of the state of agriculture justifiably grew anxious. This was not because government’s efforts do not inspire or encourage, but because in spite of three crop failures, Indian politicians are still handling farming with a mindset […]Read More »

Can India finally see a Modi Budget in 2016?

When existing steel companies are already reeling under distress owing to falling demand, why is the Union government going to establish new steel companies in the public sector? What is the need for forming new banks (monetary banks) to provide loans to small companies when several financial institutions of the government are already doing this? […]Read More »

How many more taxes do we need to pay?

Public memory is usually short but the memory of taxation is even shorter. Benchmark brent crude might have tested an unprecedented low of $37 per barrel, but domestic petrol and diesel prices are still ruling higher thanks to heavy taxes. If only the debate on goods and services tax (GST) revolved around explaining this dichotomy, […]Read More »

Is weak rupee still a national shame for PM?

Whether India draws an economic advantage from the ongoing global turbulence or not, a substantial political advantage can definitely be churned out at the moment. It is time for our leaders to rid themselves of their unfounded misconception on the exchange value of the domestic currency, that is, the rupee. In India, the BJP and […]Read More »

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