Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pranabda ko gussa kyon aata hai

Statutory Warning - This post has language which may be offensive to some. Reader discretion is advised !

Why is the  Finance Minister  an angry old man  - approximate translation of the title of this post for non Indians. He is one of the most mature and level headed politicians in India. And yet, these days, he is behaving like an "old f&*% with that perpetual scowl on his face" - you can see zillions of this category in any apartment owners' association in India. Either he has gone a bit batty or has let Ramamritham loose - both of which are awful developments for India

I am referring to their collective antics relating to the tax laws in India. The Vodafone story is now well known and is the subject of an earlier post of mine. Pranabda is simply being extremely churlish and petty in pursuing this. I continue to be amazed that they are going after Vodafone (which was the buyer in this transaction and made no capital gain) rather than the seller, Hutchison Telecom, which is really the company they should go after. If Ramamritham has any b*&@$, he should take on China.

But they haven't stopped there. They are loudly defending the retrospective changes they have brought into the Income Tax law . In this process, they are also overriding bilateral tax treaties with many countries. Nonsense regarding sovereignty and the right of Parliament to enact any law it pleases is being spewed. They are seeking to impose GAAR (General Anti Avoidance Rules). In layman's language, GAAR  simply means that you as a tax payer have to prove your innocence (the taxman is simply going to assume that you are guilty). Fantastic. Grrrr.

I can understand the pressing need to raise revenue - given that they are spending money like water on doles and giveaways and simply borrowing their way to nirvana. Even grant for a minute that curtailing expenditure is a non option (wow).  But is this the way to raise money ?

Only 35m Indians pay Income Tax. That's 3% of the population. Is really 97% of India poor ? How about getting some more people to pay instead of screwing those who do ?? Just look at the fantastic (and mostly ill gotten) wealth in property most of which is in suitcases. How about tightening the noose on those. Even today you can earn Rs 10000000000 crores as "agricultural income" and not pay any income tax at all. Why not tax that ?

The relationship between the taxman and taxpayer is one of extreme confrontation in India - anybody who has been at the receiving end of attention from Ramamritham knows this. Laws are draconian and the concept of guilty until proven innocent is well engrained. Dispute resolution in a sensible way is non existent - everything is confrontation. With the latest scowl on Pranabda's face, its only going to get worse.

When will we ever learn that making laws simple and fair , keeping tax rates reasonable and letting economic activity boom is the surest way for governments to increase revenues. Pranabda knows all this - he is a wise and extremely experienced minister. And yet, look at what he has become.

Will the Pranabda of old resurface please ?

For a more level headed and saner piece on this issue, read here.