Own a fancy house? Taxman might come calling after Modi’s instructions

  • Timsy Jaipuria, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 17, 2016 12:33 IST
In this file photo, high-rise apartments in Gurgaon can be seen. (Manoj Kumar/ HT file photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked tax officials to knock on the doors of people whose income statements don’t reflect the size or grandeur of their property, but they must do so in a gentle and friendly manner, a top government official said on Thursday.

Such cold calls by taxmen are part of several suggestions Modi made at a conference of revenue officials, where the Prime Minister also set a target of doubling the country’s taxpayer base to 100 million. He did not give a deadline.

Successive governments have struggled with under-reporting of taxes, seen as a major hurdle in expanding state revenues, as well as with growing undisclosed incomes, or what is known as black money, to avoid taxation.

A 2015 Credit Suisse survey said India had 185,000 dollar-millionaires but officially only about 150,000 people are known to have an annual income of above Rs 5 million.

“The Prime Minister asked the officers that in case you know a person who has a big fancy house, but his income is not reflective of the same, do not hesitate to ask him about how he funded this,” revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia told Hindustan Times, quoting Modi.

Adhia said Modi’s suggestion would be treated with “utmost importance”.

At his hour-long interaction with revenue officials, Modi did a bit of math to show that of the 250 million households in the country 150 million were agriculturalists, who do not have to pay tax.

“This still leaves us with 10 crore (100 million) households,” minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha told reporters after the meeting with Modi, who did not set a deadline to achieve the target.

Modi told the officers that they must reduce “trust deficit” with “soft and sober behaviour”.

“If you become taxpayer-friendly, then taxes will automatically come to you,” he told the conference.

Given that 92% of tax was deducted at source of income, came from advance tax or through self-assessment, Modi said, it should allow a substantial number of 42,000 tax officers to focus more on direct tax collection.

Modi asked tax officials to focus on five pillars of administration -- revenue, accountability, probity, information and digitisation (RAPID) -- and move towards “digitisation”.

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