The TIOL National Taxation Awards event was all about celebrating legal compliance in the Indian economy. A large gathering of taxpayers including winners of the awards from the State Governments, tax commissionerates of Income Tax, Customs & GST and the India Inc, was addressed by a panoply of orators from the Union Cabinet, the Judiciary, the academia and the bureaucracy.
BLOCKCHAIN technology has transformed the world into a metaverse. So has TIOL metamorphosed the taxation world into fiscal-verse! The human-dominated world is quite accustomed to different shades of festivities and event-linked celebrations such as birthdays and marriage anniversaries. But, one may find it a bit bewildering if one talks about ‘celebrating’ tax payment and inspiring tax compliance. Coo, sounds unmistakably ‘inTAXicating’! This is how the world of taxpayers viewed the Second TIOL National Taxation Awards 2021 event, held on February 26, at Pullman Hotel in New Delhi. A shining constellation of ‘stars’ from all the three pillars of the Republic of India along with myriad tax boffins, czars from the bureaucracy and corporate honchos, had graced the occasion.
WHO ALL WERE THERE?
To name a few – the Union Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari; the Member of Parliament & former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi; the Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, N K Singh; the sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M R Shah; the Revenue Secretary, Tarun Bajaj; the former Chief Justice of India, R C Lahoti; the former Judge of the Apex Court of India, Shiva Kirti Singh who is also the Chairman of the Jury Panel; the former Finance Secretary, A N Jha; the former Industry Secretary, Ramesh Abhishek; the former CBEC Chairperson, Praveen Mahajan; the former CBDT Chairman, M C Joshi; the Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana, Anurag Rastogi and the Managing Partner -Tax, Deloitte India, Vipul Jhaveri. Some of the Jury members who could not join owing to various reasons are the Director of editorial board of the Business Standard Newspaper, A K Bhattacharya; the CFO of Nayara Energy, Anup Vaikal and the Magsaysay Award Winner, Dr Harish Hande.
All these prominent persons had descended at the venue in-person as well as remotely, to celebrate a new ecosystem of legal compliance including tax compliance which is one of the pillars of TIOL National Taxation Awards. And, on the other side of the fence to receive the awards, were the senior officers of the State Governments; CGST and SGST Commissionerates; Customs Zonal heads; corporate honchos from mainly the two categories of above Rs 5000 Cr turnover and between Rs 500 Cr to Rs 5000 Cr turnover; inspiring entrepreneurs
from the MSME sector; winners from the categories such as Tax Technology Service Providers; Facilitators and also Fiscal journalists from the print, broadcast as well as digital media. A large crowd, tied by the common thread of taxation, had thronged the tech-bedecked auditorium to receive the trophies from the dignitaries and relish the moments afforded to them by their model tax behaviour. For the taxpayers, it was an occasion of ‘fiscal cwtch’ – they were seen hugging, embracing and felicitating each other even before they could be two-fisted with the trophies. A thick layer of jollification was hung in the air in the entire hotel premises.
The curtain over the event was lifted with the lighting of the lamps by the galaxy of mesmerizers laced with the best of their oratorial armour. It rolled out with the welcome address by the Trustee of the TIOL Trust, Shailendra Kumar, a seasoned fiscal journalist and a successful entrepreneur in the digital space. He largely focussed on the arduous challenges the National Awards are engineered to increasingly grapple within the coming years – a new tax culture of unfailing compliance and enabling the Institution of State to look after not only the vulnerable, the salaried and the middle class but also the rich and ultra-rich segments of the society as long as they demonstrate the propensity to comply with the tax laws and pay their taxes to strengthen the hands of the State to play the welfarist role.
The three arrows which he talked about from his quiver are – better-informed taxpayers; high tax morale in the society and greater trust in the governments across the spectrum. He also emphasised on the canons of parental value which gets transferred from one generation to another, for preparing future taxpayers for the country. Shailendra Kumar stressed more on fiscal literacy which, he said, is directly related to high and low tax morale which, in turn, determines the sleepless hours for the policy-makers in the governments. The crux of his speech, which he tried hard to telegram to the audiences, was – Only virtuous citizens lead a virtuous State. In other words, if all taxpayers become compliant, the state machinery can also be compelled to become flawless in providing their services to the common man.
Then remotely addressed the gathering the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, who described the TIOL’s efforts as a right step in the right direction to appreciate the silent contributors of the Exchequer (See Box). His speech was followed by the conferment of the TIOL Fiscal Heritage Award, posthumously, on Dr Raja Chelliah who is known as the ‘Father of Tax Reform’ in India. Veteran economist N K Singh and other prominent fiscal experts paid rich tributes to his lifetime contribution to the economic and taxation space in India (See Box). The Vice-Chairman of the Jury Panel, A N Jha, then unspooled the strict criteria and guidelines loaded with multiple parameters for the selection of the winners under various categories. He elaborated the two-wheeled selection algorithm – Nomination and voting in favour of valid nominees. He also emphasised how the TIOL Awards aim at motivating reform-minded State governments to increasingly introduce citizen-centric services and also act as a catalyst for healthy competition among the States.
Similarly, there are awards also for efficient and taxpayer-friendly services provided by the Tax Commissionerates of Customs, Income Tax, CGST & SGST. No award was given to any Income Tax Zone this year as the number of votes did not scale up to the threshold, internally fixed by the Jury. All these arms of the governments, including the Gamechanger Institutions such as GSTN, NSDL, NIC, Aadhaar, DG (Systems) of the Income Tax, ICEGATE and others fall in the ‘Deemed Nominated’ category. It is learnt that the toolkit of the ‘Deemed Nominated’ provision is going to be extended to the Corporate Category for the Third TIOL National Taxation Award. The Trustee, Shailendra Kumar, said that since common taxpayers’ money is invested in the listed companies, the top 100 listed companies are going to be deemed nominated under two categories for corporate – 1) Above Rs 5000 Crore turnover; and 2) Between Rs 500 Crore to Rs 5000 Crore. Since most MSMEs are largely private limited or partnership firms or proprietary concerns, they have been left untouched in the ‘Non-Deemed’ Category.
A N Jha’s speech was followed by an insightful address by veteran economist N K Singh who complimented TIOL and termed the Award as an important initiative to meet the daunting challenges of fiscal policies (See Box). Next came the sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M R Shah, who congratulated the winners of the award for being the ‘role models for others in the society. He noted that the tax payment should not be seen as ‘taxing’ and it is for the development and welfare of the people in the society (See Box).
The gathering was next addressed by the Managing Partner – Tax of Deloitte India, Vipul Jhaveri, who emphasized a simple and taxpayer-friendly tax system that armor-plates against adverse side effects or the temptation of committing economic offenses. According to Vipul Jhaveri for tax compliance, tax discipline is needed – the perception of blood clotting out of fear and non-compliance needs to go away. He urged tax authorities to focus on enlightening rather than punishing taxpayers. He appreciated the TIOL’s mantras of recognizing and respecting model taxpayers. Jhaveri also advocated that the tax system in a country should be dynamic enough to handle unforeseen global situations such as the Covid-19 and a hike in the crude prices owing to the Russia-Ukraine War.
Sushil Modi, the widely-acclaimed GST expert among the elite political fraternities, picked up various threads of issues raised by the previous speakers (See Box). Rajya Sabha member and former Deputy CM of Bihar Sushil Modi along with other distinguished guests on the dais also gave away the Gold and Silver trophies to various winners under various categories. Before the Awards, the Jury Chairman, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and other Members handed over framed Jury Award certificates to a certain number of winners in each category.
The winner under the Customs category, Roopam Kapoor, the Chief Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai Zone-III said that the trophy is well deserved by more than 1000 officers of his zone who work selflessly to facilitate the trade. Vineet Agrawal and Suresh Pradhan of JSW Steel Ltd, a winner of the Silver Trophy in the above Rs 5000 Crore category, said that their company has been actively participating in the ‘Make in India’ Scheme of the Prime Minister and also provided assistance to the needy in the society like a good corporate citizen. Anshuman Tiwari, the winner of the Fiscal Journalist category, said that the Award brings more responsibility on his shoulder and he would be discharging the same more responsibly. The curtains over the event were pulled down with the vote of thanks extended by R Sridhar, a senior member of the TIOL Award Organising Committee. In his address, Sridhar congratulated the winners and asked them to play the active role of model taxpayers in society and be a torch-bearer for TIOL’s goal of a fiscally-literate and tax-compliant economy.
(With inputs from Advocates Kunal Sharma & Puneet Kumar and Muskan from IP University)
India Needs to Accelerate its GDP growth rate to meet the Economic Challenges – N K Singh
The 15th Finance Commission Chairman N K Singh expressed his angst about huge amount of revenue being lost due to lack of improper compliance
WHILE talking about uphill fiscal tasks at TIOL event veteran economist and 15th Finance Commission Chairman N K Singh expressed happiness that the union govt has aimed for a Tax to GDP ratio of above 10 percent this year which has been languishing below 10 percent which is far below the potential that the country has. He opined that tax-neutral GST rate should be 15-16 percent going by different studies.
The 15th Finance Commission Chairman expressed his angst about a huge sum of revenue being lost due to a lack of improper compliance. Referring to the IMF Study revealing the loss of revenue to the extent of 2 to 3 percent of the GDP, he said it is too huge for a revenue-starved country like India.
The noted fiscal economist further underlined that the income tax rates in India are now quite moderate. But he expressed concern about the recent trimming of the corporate tax rate for incentivizing the manufacturing sector which has not worked as yet – perhaps, due to the pandemic. He hoped that the corporate tax collections would now bounce back as the economy has shown healthy signs of recovery. N K Singh cautioned on the instances of rationalization of Custom duties. He referred to alarmed India resorting to protectionist policies. He said that India’s Customs duty rates should not be misaligned with the peer group countries. He argued that the country needs to have a GDP growth rate of about 8 percent to meet the economic challenges.
While concluding his speech N K Singh advocated removal of exemptions, better tax administration and high quality compliances for proper tax collection. He also said that the wheel of time also warrants stamp duty and property tax reforms to cushion the dwindling resources for municipal authorities in the country.
Information Technology made Tax Machinery
More Efficient – Nitin Gadkari
Nitin Gadkari, the Union Transport Minister, emphasised the motivation and encouragement of taxpayers by recognising and celebrating their contribution to the nation
WHILE addressing the TIOL National Taxation Awards event the Union Transport Minister and veteran politician Nitin Gadkari stated that his government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has taken several tax reform measures and is duty-bound to protect the compliant taxpayers whose contribution enables the State to undertake welfare and development works for the nation. The minister highlighted various Information technology-related decisions taken by his government to make the tax machinery more efficient, corruption-free and result-oriented. He also referred to the PM’s pet project – Digital India and reiterated a raft of sustained measures initiated to digitalize the working of the tax system in the country. Nitin Gadkari said that his government has done
the historic indirect tax reform in the shape of GST and has begun to yield Rs 1.4 lakh crore monthly revenue. And such a cushion of funds enables the Modi government to speed up infrastructure projects, which are so vital for attaining the USD 5 trillion milestones. He stressed that collecting more taxes from the citizens is not only the goal of the government but also to reward honest taxpayers. He further appreciated the role of the TIOL in motivating and encouraging taxpayers by recognizing and celebrating their contribution to the nation.