Course correction? Govt set to release new tax data in 15 days

  • Timsy Jaipuria
  • Updated: May 24, 2016 09:51 IST

NEW DELHI: The government will come out with a revised set of income-tax data in the next 15 days to address the loopholes cited by French economist Thomas Piketty.

The new data will include tables on “total income” and “gross income”.

Total income refers to the income from one particular section (salaried, self-employed etc), while gross income is the overall income of all taxpayers combined.

The Centre will also come up with revised calculations, since in the earlier set of data, the number of people filing under different sections did not add up to the total number of taxpayers in the country. Since a number of individuals file returns under more than one category, they were counted twice or sometimes even thrice while calculating the number of overall taxpayers.

To avoid such confusion, the government is likely to introduce more footnotes and clarifications highlighting the way the data should be read.

The government last month released a backlog of tax data for assessment year 2012-13, which showed that only 1% of Indians paid taxes, while 2% filed returns.

The release, coined as a landmark decision by the government, was later questioned by Piketty, who said that “too many details were just adding to the confusion rather than being able to give a clear picture.”

“Piketty called up chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian and said that a lot of calculations do not add up to the total number of 30-million taxpayers. What is missing is the total income of these people, the number of companies who pay taxes, among others, which is not giving the right picture,” added the government official quoted above. “Not just Piketty, but other independent researchers have also raised several points, which the tax department is working on.”

“They( India) released detailed data by income range for one year only (2012-2013). For the entire period 2000-2015, the only data that was released is at the aggregate level, total numbers of taxpayers, total tax revenue, etc. In order to study the evolution of income distribution, we would need to have the detailed data by income range for all years,” Piketty, the author of the famous Capital in the Twenty-First Century, had told a news agency after the tax department released the data.

The government published tax data till 2000, after which it was discontinued.

It is now looking to release all old data over the next one year, the official said. “Once the backlog is clear, we will make it an yearly feature, where every year’s data will be updated.”

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