A coin of Rs150 denomination ($3.33) was released by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on Saturday, bearing the portrait of Chanakya, lotus and honeybee, to conclude the celebrations to mark 150 years of Income Tax Department.
Chanakya, often called India's Machiavelli, though he predated the Italian thinker by some 1,800 years, was advisor to the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta (from 340 BC to 293 BC), and laid the foundation for governance with his treatise the Arthasastra.
Why the flower and the bee? "Ideally, governments should collect taxes like a honeybee, which sucks just the right amount of nectar from the flower, so that both of them can survive. Lotus is our national flower," explained an official in the finance ministry.
"The Rs150 coin is not only unique for its denomination but also in terms of its size and metal composition. This 44-millimetre circular coin is made of 50-per cent silver," the official added.
Also released was a coin of Rs5 denomination.
In the legislative history of India, income tax was introduced for the first-time vide Act No. XXXII of 1860, when the country was under British rule, imposing duties on profits arising from property, professions, trades and offices.
The relevant bill to set up the Income Tax Department was moved by the first member-finance of the Council of India, James Wilson, who also founded The Economist magazine.
It was passed by the Legislative Council of India and received assent of the governor general on July 24, 1860. This act was the precursor to the modern-day income tax legislation in the country.
Wilson was specifically sent to India by the British rulers to set up its tax structure, as also to introduce a new paper currency and establish a new financial system after the revolt of 1857.
He, incidentally, died a few days after the Council gave its nod to the new bill to set up the tax department. His grave was recently rediscovered in Kolkata by an officer of the Income Tax Department and restored.
Mukherjee, who is set to present the federal budget on Monday, said direct taxes mop-up had registered a growth of 20 per cent during the current fiscal so far, reaching Rs3,35,000 crore.
He said during the past five years, direct tax collection had grown at an average annual rate of 24 per cent, nearly trebling between 2004-05 and 2009-10. He also said its share in the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has grown from 4.1 per cent to 6.1 per cent.
"This sustained growth has been possible due to the rationalisation of tax structure, an improvement in tax administration and persistent efforts of the employees of Income Tax department."