Many of us may have been glued to the screen of our televisions on the morning of the 1st of February. Hoping for the revolution boasted on billboards across the city, you perhaps eagerly watched Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley deliver the much-awaited Annual Budget of 2017.
But before one of the most televised events of the year took place, the Rotary Club of Mumbai was honoured to have the reputed Rtn. Mr. Anil Harish, partner at D. M. Harish & Co., a law firm established by his father, the “undisputed guru of taxation,” deliver an illuminating speech on budget prospects. He briefly described his expectations, rather than his predictions, for the upcoming fiscal year as a specialist in tax law.
Humorously, he began by sharing an intriguing email he had received from P.P. Sandip Agarwala “The email,” he said, “did not predict the budget, but what would be said after it: the BJP will say it is a path-breaking, pro-farmer budget, Congress will say it is an anti-poor, inflationary budget, and the AAP will say the budget is only for the benefit of Adani and Ambani.”
Though the budget is the centre of many a conversation for us, few have actually delved into its history, impacts, and inclusions. Therefore, Rtn. Harish simplified its complexities and laid them before us. He answers what seem like basic questions: What is the budget? Why is it important? And lastly, what does he, as a tax lawyer and a concerned citizen, want from it?
As he explained, the budget arises out of a need to make the Income Tax Act relevant in each fiscal year. As the Act does not include real-time figures and percentages, it necessitates an additional Finance Act, which is what we all eagerly waited for on Wednesday morning. He reaffirmed that the Income Tax Act states that “the rates will be specified in a separate law, which has to be passed every year.”
Rtn. Harish also remarked that “110 clauses were introduced in the Finance Act last year to amend the Income Tax Act.” For anyone familiar with parliamentary procedure, it is understood what a detailed process that is.
Perhaps this is due to the multidimensional definition of Income Tax as it manifests itself in the modern day world and the legislation that regulates it. As Rtn. Harish stated, “Income tax is not just a tax on your income,” it is a myriad of exemptions, liabilities, and penal provisions.
He went on to dissect the many bills previously passed by the Finance Ministry, most notably, the Demonetisation Bill that changed the face of the Indian economy.
Highlighting the bill’s goals to “eliminate terrorism and the production of counterfeit notes,” he stated that it has not achieved its stated objectives. He compared India’s well-meaning process to that of Indonesia’s, and argued that our nation may have needed “something with a heart,” much like Indonesia put forth in the previous year.
After this quick crash course on all the history and implications of the Finance Act, Rtn. Harish spoke about his expectations of the 2017 Budget. “So what needs to be transformed in order for us to want to pay tax?” He questioned.
Rtn. Harish then took us through the “ABCDE” of his hopes for the 2017 Budget, in order to fulfill his “great expectations” of our government.
He emphasised the need to reform the Administration of tax, elimination of Black money, rampant Corruption, Delays involved with taxation, and the Ease of doing business in India. He highlighted the large and heavy barriers to entry into the Indian market, and the many issues in the current way that our nation’s policies create opportunities and need for corruption.
Rtn. Harish concluded by stating that what India really requires for consistent and all-round progress, is stability. “Because once there is stability,” he noted, “there would be no need for such predictions.”