Govt releases tax data since 2000, but details still veiled

  • HT Correspondent, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 30, 2016 02:32 IST
Thomas Piketty during a session titled "The Politics of Inequality” at Jaipur literary festival 2016. He has been critical of incomplete data released by the government (HT file photo)

The government on Friday released income-tax data since the fiscal year 2000-2001, giving insight into income trends in the country that Prime Minister Narendra Modi later termed a “landmark decision”.

It is the first time that such data has been made public, though it is likely to be a regular feature. The data revealed that the share of direct taxes as a share of the economy fell to 5.47% in 2015-16 — the lowest in almost a decade.

After the data was released, chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian tagged French economist Thomas Piketty, who has been calling for transparency from the Indian government on income distribution. However, the twitter account he tagged is silent, and says “@ThomasPiketty hasn’t tweeted yet”.

Modi said in his tweet: “It is a big step towards transparency & informed policy making. Am sure this data will be used by researchers and analysts and lead to enhanced insights for policy making on taxation” — making it appear a direct reply to Piketty’s pending request for data from the government.

Piketty, the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century and who works on wealth and income inequality across the world, did not take long to respond.

He told PTI: “They released detailed data by income range for one year only (2012-2013). For the entire 2000-2015, the only data that was released is at the aggregate level, total numbers of taxpayers, total tax revenue, etc. To study the evolution of income distribution we would need the detailed data by income range for all years.”

Contradictory to Modi’s pledge to crack down on so-called “black money”, the data highlights that the ratio of direct taxes to total taxes in 2015-16 is the lowest in past 9 years, and the peak of 60.78% was hit in 2009-10.

The data also shows corporate tax collections have risen nearly 12-fold in 15 years to Rs 4,54,419 crore in 2015-16, and is more than 58% higher than the Rs 2,86,801 crore income tax collections.

It also said 290 million Indians filed income tax returns and the largest group of tax payers earned an average of Rs 6,94,000. Just six people declared an average income of Rs 68.72 crore in 2012-13 as per the latest data.

Maharashtra contributes the biggest share of direct taxes at Rs 2.77 lakh crore in 2014-15 when total collections were Rs 6.96 lakh crore.

Delhi was second biggest contributor at Rs 91,247.90 crore while Karnataka was third at Rs 60,595.22 crore. Modi’s home state Gujarat gave Rs 35,912.46 crore of taxes, behind Tamil Nadu’s Rs 44,732.62 crore.

Read: India yet to provide access to income tax statistics: Piketty

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