On the occasion of Income Tax Day, Orissa POST spoke to Sarat Kumar Dash, former Principal Income Tax Commissioner of Odisha, who has recently retired from the department. Excerpts.
How many people in Odisha are paying income tax? How rampant is I-T evasion?
In 2019-20, Odisha region of Income Tax department mobilised a net collection of Rs 13,413 crore – a growth of around 2.35 per cent as compared to 2018-19 financial year. At present, the total number of taxpayers/assessees in Odisha is slightly more than 13 lakh – around 3 per cent of the total population. It’s definitely a fact that all the taxpayers may not be filing I-T returns and paying taxes. For some, tax payment is a waste of money.
Why should all eligible citizens pay taxes?
Tax is stated to be a price we pay for a civilised society. According to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, finance or treasury is at the root of the government or administration. Hence, one has to pay taxes as his contribution towards the cost of administration and development of the country.
Do you think I-T collection has got a setback due to Covid-19?
Covid crisis has given a lethal blow to the country’s economy. Both direct and indirect tax collections have taken a nosedive during the last four months. Odisha I-T Region is no exception and the Direct Tax collection has been around Rs 1,200 crore till the end of June 2020 as against Rs 1,900 crore collected till this time last year.
How the department is dealing with tax evaders?
I-T department is collecting, collating and analysing details of financial transactions from many sources and authorities in respect of the taxpayers and others. The same is being linked to PAN and analysed. If the taxpayer is found to have not disclosed the transaction either fully or partially in his I-T return, necessary action is being taken to bring him to book. A 360-degree profiling of the assessee has started paying rich dividends. e-Notices are being issued to non-taxpayers who are found to have taxable income or wealth.
Has the dept simplified I-T return filing for the ease of taxpayers?
Forms like ‘Saral’ and ‘Sahaj’ have been formulated to ease I-T return filing. Employees with salaries, income from one property and interest can use one of the options. Frankly speaking, I-T returns for other assessees are quite voluminous and too complicated for a taxpayer to understand and fill the forms on his own. Simple I-T return forms will be possible only when the taxation law is simplified.
Do you think the I-T dept has evolved to better manage tax evasion?
I-T department is now fully computerised and many of the processes now take place on e-mode. A large volume of financial transactions are now received and analysed with the help of analytical tools based on computers. The department is keeping constant vigil on cash transactions and introduced TDS on big cash withdrawals so that the same may be kept track of. We are fast approaching a tax evader free regime. The cost of tax evasion has been made much heavier than the tax evaded.
Manish Kumar, OP