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Center succeeded in generating tax revenue by urging taxpayers to file updated returns: Tarun Bajaj

The Union government has been successful in increasing revenues by encouraging taxpayers to file updated tax returns whenever the income tax department has information about unreported income, tax secretary Tarun Bajaj said. In an interview, Bajaj said that given India’s relatively low tax-to-GDP ratio (10.7% according to the FY23 budget estimate), the tax base needs to be further broadened before the government could think about reducing income tax rates.

Bajaj also said voting is not the only option to decide on the thorny issue of taxing online gaming, horse racing and casinos as consensus is possible. The GST Council will then meet on December 17. Edited snippets:

Will windfall tax not affect investment in oil and gas exploration and refinery capacity?

I don’t think companies would count on windfall profits to make investments. They would count on normal profits, and normal profits are good. In addition, we have not taken everything above a normal profit. We left a lot on the table. Now, even with windfall taxes, they are making more than normal profits in the case of both crude oil and refined products.

The paid class is heavily taxed, while professionals and businesses have more leeway and resources for tax planning. There is reason to offer a more favorable tax regime for the salaried class, especially when there is dynamism in revenue collection; isn’t there?

It is necessary to expand the tax-to-GDP ratio before deciding to provide some relief. If you take individual taxpayers into account, it’s 70-75 million. Only 25% of them pay taxes, and the rest simply file returns. Not too many people pay taxes, contrary to the message that the middle class does. The middle class may number 200 million people, but the taxpaying population is no more than 10-15 million. I think there is a need to broaden the tax base and simplify taxation. If we could push the simplification that we’ve made on the corporate tax side, that would help.

Since the ministerial group set up to decide on taxation of online gambling, horse racing and casinos could not reach a consensus, will the GST council have to decide by vote?

I don’t know if it (the GoM’s report) will play a part in the next GST Council meeting, and if it does, what’s in the report. If the GoM says there is no consensus and these are different positions, then the Council will take a position on that. I think we need to get away from the idea that we will agree on everything. Even if we disagree, there’s reason to say, “Yes, I’ll give up and go with you, even though I disagree.” It must have happened in the Council in so many cases. We really have to accept and admire the wisdom of the political executive. In so many cases debates have taken place and the House has been divided to agree on an alternative proposal.

What are the urgent matters at the next Council meeting?

The meeting is scheduled for December 17. The case on the GST tribunal may come.

What are the biggest benefits of technology in tax administration?

We have used technology extensively. In the area of ​​direct taxation, we have started matching information with data from external sources, such as the GST branch and the Department of Corporate Affairs. We also get direct tax information from banks, insurance companies, etc. The use of technology will only increase. In direct taxation, apart from people with an income, we have also tried to include people who meet certain criteria, for example foreign travel or electricity consumption above a certain amount. We believe that people who spend so much on these items have taxable income and should therefore file a return. We also doubled the withholding tax (TDS) rate for non-returners according to our criteria. The trend to broaden the tax base will continue. We are now issuing notices to people who have evaded taxes and asking them to submit updated tax returns. When I last checked, about 300,000 updated tax returns had come in, and 500 crore has come. Approximately 2,400 corporate tax returns have been received and nearly 20 people have filed tax returns 1 crore and above. We tell people if you forgot to file a return, pay taxes and move on. While we do all these things, taxpayers are happy to pay taxes and feel comfortable. Once they get on the net, they keep paying taxes.

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