WEEKEND LIGHTER: Simplify tax procedures

WEEKEND LIGHTER*: Simplify tax procedures
(March 11/12, 2017, No.10/2017)
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com
*Weekend Lighter is posted every Saturday @mgwarrier.blogspot.in
Section III:CAG interview

Cover Story
Simplify tax procedures*
This refers to the report “Cost accountants’ body to train 15 lakh traders in GST basics over the year” (HBL, March 9). The move by ICAI will be welcomed by all. To borrow a word from Amartya  Sen, India has inherited a ‘despotic’ tax system from the British and we have not cared to revamp it all these years.
If someone needs a proof, do go through the hard print copies of Budget papers of central or state governments. Though thousands of copies of these documents are printed every year, most of the print copies  go direct to raddi-walahs, a few months after presentation of budgets. Very few people go through the budget papers and those who go through, focus mainly on areas of their own Interest. Of course, tax consultants  benefit from the ambiguity in provisions of law and multi-dimensional exemptions which can reduce the tax burden in many cases, considerably.
The inadequacies in the tax system and the need for and advantage of taxing the rich are debated only in class rooms. GST is likely to address some of the issues of multiple taxation outside income tax. Think of a day when the tax payable by us is just a percentage of our income or expenditure, with a maximum of four slabs with total exemption up to a threshold level. For annual personal income the exemption limit could be Rs5 lakhs and for individual expenditure Rs1000/-.
We pay income tax at source and again pay tax on the balance received when we use the residual income  to buy goods or services. Just think about this calmly. We need to debate possible options to simplify the tax system, keeping the net revenue of the government from taxes intact as money is needed for government expenditure.
Time is opportune to consider agricultural income and  income from any source coming before tax to the hands of citizens, for being taxed. Gods and organizations/institutions having income beyond a threshold level should be assessed for tax purposes.
A related issue is wealth and accumulated assets in various forms. All these idling with individuals and institutions should be mapped and brought to the mainstream database. In addition to recovery of costs for providing security and other services, there should be clear disincentives for idle assets including uncultivated agricultural land, unused built-up areas and so on.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
*Submitted version of letter published in The Hindu Business Line, March 10, 2017

Reinvent cooperatives!**

The message contained in the well researched article “Cooperatives should reinvent themselves”(Business Line, March 7) has come at the right time. The quote from Edgar Parnell exhorting cooperatives to shun leaders who are “…ego builders, recognition seekers, hijackers, political ladder climbers…” is the most appropriate to describe the parasites to be avoided by cooperatives in 21st Century India.
Cooperatives across the country had more than their due share of  problems post-demonetization. While primary(urban) cooperative banks  whose functioning is similar to mini-commercial banks are regulated and supervised by RBI, the three/two tier structure of cooperatives comprising State and District Cooperative Banks and thousands of primary cooperative societies have multiple regulatory and supervisory oversight involving RBI, NABARD and Registrar of Cooperative Societies(State Government).
There is urgency in finding a solution to a problem that has arisen due to continued neglect of an institutional system which has been serving the semi-urban and rural areas of the country, with all constraints. There are no alternative conduits to ensure  banking service to their clientele in semi-urban and rural areas. The cooperatives need to survive, and issues like politicization, inadequate skills or problems arising from the dual control of cooperatives by Centre and states should be set aside by judiciary, governments and cooperatives themselves for a short period. There is need for cooperation among these agencies in solving the immediate problems the clientele of cooperatives are facing today.
Several short-cuts are being tried by state governments and cooperatives which can only lead to more complications. The short-cuts include bypassing DCCBs by state cooperative bank (as in Kerala), diverting the business now being done by cooperatives to other agencies and taking the problems to courts which helps in postponing decision-making. The historic reason for the present state of affairs include the straying away of  NABARD constituted with the specific purpose of supporting the institutional framework responsible for agriculture and rural development from its focus on cooperatives and RRBs to greener pastures like Self Help Groups with commercial banks’ involvement.
At this stage Centre should assert and empower state level task forces involving RBI, NABARD, banks and state governments to resolve the problems locally in a time bound manner.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
**Submitted version of letter published in HBL on March 8, 2017

Politicization of economics

 Apropos Aarati Krishnan’s article “Cracking the GDP mystery” (The Hindu, March 7), one has to admit that unbiased analysis of facts and events has become a rarity in the Indian media and articles like this gives the comfort that so long as The Hindu survives, balanced views will have some space to get published.
This lament is in the context of the polarization of not only politicians and their parties, but economists, analysts and media groups into pro-Government and Opposition teams, an unhealthy trend of the current century India which has crossed tolerance levels post-November 8, 2016.
The criticism unleashed last week when CSO released some GDP-related figures last week was hasty and hazy. This article proves that with all blames statistics and therefore statisticians are made to shoulder, while interpretations can differ, figures won’t lie and are verifiable. Of course, in India, commensurate with the delay in various other sectors, accurate and final CSO figures also come out only after their “Use before” date!
M G Warrier, Mumbai

CAG interview*

At a time when audits are getting complex, governments richer and forms of corruption and maladministration extremely difficult to detect, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has suddenly landed in the midst of unprecedented opportunity and challenge: besides the historic task of keeping a close watch on the Central and State governments, it is now auditing several public-private partnerships (PPP), the UN Headquarters, and is poised to become part of the new cricket dispensation. While holding forth on a variety of subjects, CAG Shashi Kant Sharma stresses the need for federal auditors to play a key role in Goods and Services Tax (GST) reforms. He also reveals that the CAG would soon begin auditing demonetization and its fallout.
*Use the link to read the interview


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