'Exempt income up to Rs 3 lakh from tax'

Tax

The skewed personal income tax collection pattern of the government has prompted the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance to suggest moderately higher taxes for those who earn more and greater relief for small taxpayers. In fact, it has suggested that the tax should kick in only at annual income levels of Rs 3 lakh and more.

According to latest data collected by the Income Tax department, of the 300 million taxpayers in the country, just 1,85,000 individuals earn over Rs 20 lakh a year. But this small group pays Rs 53,170 crore in personal income tax. The broad categorisation of tax payers shows that individuals in Rs 0-10 lakh comprise almost 92 per cent of the total taxpayer base, but they contribute only Rs 21,094 crore, less than 40 per cent of the amount collected as taxes from the small group earning over Rs 20 lakh a year. The tax payers within the income slab of Rs 10-20 lakh per annum — 3.35 lakh tax payers — paid Rs 10,185 crore to the government, the data showed.

The stark contradiction has prompted the standing committee to suggest that the government should restructure the current tax regime, making it more progressive so that individual tax payers and corporate can be shielded from regressive effects of the present structure. Accordingly, the committee suggests that the tax slab attracting nil rate should be raised from Rs 2 lakh proposed in the Direct Tax Code to Rs 3 lakh so that the department can channelise its resources in minimising the compliance and transaction cost.

"The character of the tax regime should change and it should be made more progressive. This would entail greater relief for small tax payers—both individuals and corporate — and moderately higher rates for tax payers in the higher bracket," the Parliamentary panel has said.

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