The correction of fiscal imbalances in India should focus on the root cause of disequilibrium – the government not being able to balance its consumption outlays with revenue receipts. Restructuring of public expenditure seems to be very difficult under the present circumstances. Hence, significant improvement will hinge increasingly on improvement in revenue collection through direct and indirect taxes. There is need for comprehensive reforms in direct and indirect taxes through decisive action in many crucial areas rather than marginal improvement on all fronts.
Broadening of the tax base is necessary to ensure growth of revenue. In direct taxes, there is a need to analyse the extent to which taxpayers actually belong to the higher slabs than they reveal in their tax returns and non-filers should be brought into the tax net. In the case of central excise and service tax, there is need to build a strong mechanism to ensure filing of returns by all registered taxpayers. To improve tax collections, it would be desirable to ask firms and companies to pay tax in equal instalments and adopt ‘family’ as a unit of assessment. The exemption/threshold limit should not be raised from the present level and Indian tax system should have smooth progression The Indian tax system incorporates a number of tax preferences/incentives to promote different activities which result in huge tax expenditure in case of both direct and indirect taxes. Tax expenditures, despite their drawbacks, need to be retained in the Indian tax system. However, they should be well targeted and be linked to performances. There is also a need to check the problem of increasing tax avoidance and evasion through stricter imposition of penalties and following of vigorous prosecution policy.
Efficient tax administration calls for building up of a professional cadre of administrators who may implement the tax system more equitably and efficiently. It is desirable that voluntary compliance be encouraged and non-compliance be penalized. There is need to minimize arrears of assessment and collection, pendency of appeals, issue quick refunds, and so on. The main challenge at the present juncture is to integrate the large number of Central and State taxes to address the problem of multiplicity of taxes. The introduction of the Goods and Service Tax would be
a significant step in the field of indirect tax reform in India and pave the way for a national common market.Intertax