A politically inconvenient data nugget -Puja Mehra
Data on demonetisation’s contribution to the deepening economic slowdown may have been suppressed
Was a task force report that recommended a new law to replace the more than 50-year-old Income Tax Act, 1961 suppressed because it inadvertently provided factual evidence for the debilitating impact of demonetisation on the formal corporate sector?
On September 1-2, 2017, at the Rajaswa Gyan Sangam (an annual conference of senior tax administrators), Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an observation regarding the need to redraft the Income Tax Act, 1961. The Union Finance Ministry set the ball rolling for making direct taxes (on personal and corporate incomes) simple and in consonance with India’s economic needs. On November 22, 2017, it appointed a six-member ‘Task Force for drafting a New Direct Tax Legislation’.
On September 26, 2018, however, an office memorandum was issued “with the approval of the Finance Minister”, requesting the task force’s convenor “not to submit its report to the Government until and unless the Draft prepared by the Convenor of the Task Force is deliberated clause by clause by all Members of the Task Force and has agreement of all Members or at least majority of Members”.
The convenor, an Indian Revenue Service officer and the former Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Member (Legislation) Arbind Modi, who was closely involved earlier with tax reforms by the A. B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments, was to superannuate on September 30, 2018. No extension was given for complying with the office memorandum.
The convenor, nevertheless, submitted “four volumes in sealed cover of the report and draft legislation” to the Finance Minister and the Finance Secretary on September 28, 2018 “for continuity” and “record purposes”.
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