Era of high taxes, misuse of public money over: Piyush Goyal

New Delhi: Appealing to the business community to pay taxes and do business ethically, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said the era of high taxes and misuse of public money was over, and now every rupee received as tax was being put to good use in the interest of the nation. He also cautioned tax officers not to be over zealous in their functioning which could result in a lot of agony, particularly to the honest taxpayer.

Goyal, who was given temporary charge of the Finance Ministry on Wednesday in the absence of Arun Jaitley who is in the US for medical treatment, said the government had in the last few years made an honest attempt to make the administration more taxpayer friendly, continuously bringing down tax rates and making compliance easier and technology driven.

“Every rupee of tax collected by custom officers is put to good use, to put a roof over someone’s head, to bring digital connectivity and electricity to rural areas, ensure a better future for the youth, and most importantly, ensure the basic dignity for women in our country,” he said while addressing the Investiture Ceremony and International Customs Day celebrations here.

“And it is only when taxes are collected honestly and are put to good use honestly, one can truly feel a sense of satisfaction of a job well done,” he said.

Appealing to the business community to pay taxes honestly, Goyal said it was time to do business ethically.

“Those days are gone when we had an era of very high taxes and import duties, which caused people to look at different avenues. There was also an element of misuse of public money. Very often you would hear people say – if we are paying such high taxes, and it’s not put to good use, then we should not be paying such high taxes.

“In the last few years, there has been an honest attempt to change this concept – to make the administration more taxpayer friendly, to continuously bring down tax rates, make compliance easier and technologically driven,” the Minister said.

Acknowledging the customs officers’ crucial duty of collecting revenues “that is in turn spent for the welfare of the country’s poor”, Goyal said the true test of their success will be when every customer looks upon them as a friend, not as an adversary.

“This customer-friendly approach will give us far greater results than any other approach. Of course, we have to trust the customers with a great degree of intelligence. After all, our job is to ensure that the revenues of the government which are rightfully due are collected so that they can be used to serve the poor. No revenue should be lost,” he said.

“There cannot be any lapse in the collection of such revenue, and we must encourage customers to see this as a duty of their own,” he added.

Goyal said while a lot has been done, there was still scope to bring more transparency, simplification and ease of operations in the Customs Department.

“Very often, in the over enthusiasm of tax administration we become over zealous which causes a lot of agony, particularly to those honest tax payers who believe that they have done no wrong,” he said.

Goyal commended the efforts of the Customs Department which enabled India’s rank in “Trading Across Borders” jump from 146 in 2018 to 80 in 2019. He expressed confidence that India would further improve its position in these rankings and asked the tax officers to aim to be in the top 10.