By Hon'ble Minister Salman Khurshid
CONGRATULATIONS Hon'ble Secretary Mr. Mitra and the two top taxmen of our country – CBDT Chairman – Mr. Moorthy and CBEC Chairman Mr. Sridhar. And the very very distinguished President of ASSOCHAM Dr. Swati Piramal whose every interaction is very wonderful to listen to. I was hoping I would listen to some poetry again today. Perhaps she thought this gathering is not a right place to recite poetry.
Mr. Shailendra Kumar, Mr. Vijay Kumar, Mr. Sengupta and distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it was not a problem at all sitting here and listening to very refined speeches by people who are extremely well versed in areas of tax laws.
I have been a lawyer myself but I regret one thing. I did not ever do was to get close to law and I will tell you why. When I was studying law at oxford I had a very bright tutor. He taught me one simple thing. He said if there is something very very difficult in law just learn to recognize it and just stay away from.
Therefore, although I stayed away from Income Tax and Revenue I have now known that there is a site which I can go to very quietly and educate myself and perhaps for the next anniversary, whenever it comes, when I come and speak to you I will speak with some sense of authority that I know a little bit of Law and Taxation. But it is wonderful; let me tell you this that for me it was a great learning experience sitting here and listening to profound minds talking about Taxation and Law.
All of you present, believe me, you don't have to speak, one guesses its sense - there is so much of wisdom out there and I can see that on “Transfer Pricing” and “meeting the Wall”, I have quickly seen. [reference is to CBEC Member Mr. Dutt Mazumder's article in our souvenir – editor]
This is a great experience and I think it is, for the simple reason that everything we are doing in this country today, as we are on the move and we look forward to a place for ourselves on the high table in the world; which we have actually comfortably got for ourselves now; and even in the top regime of United Nations. Everybody is turning up to say “We want India to be a part of Security Council” as India stirs the imagination of the world.
We know that we have to prepare ourselves for great challenges in the times to come, and the areas of Revenue and Taxation are of course very very significant. You know how huge our budget has grown in the last 15-20 years and of course it has become very complicated. Our legislation has become more complicated. But we are determined that it will be simplified when the Direct Tax Code comes, when GST comes and these are the things which are important to develop consensus and to ensure that everybody agrees with the soundness of the principles and the basic layout that will be provided.
But what is important for you all to keep in mind is the capital market. The reach of taxation in this country is so limited. We are very sound in our principles. We have developed good institutions; we have exceptionally gifted minds that are available in this field, whether they are lawyers, practitioners, accountants, tax professionals. The best possible minds are available to us and I do know that we are exporting some of these minds to other countries that want to establish good Tax Laws and Tax Regimes for themselves. But we in this country have a very small footprint as far as Taxation is concerned. It is difficult to imagine what more we can do in next few years when the time will come for us when we will have to integrate what essentially has been at different levels - two Indias.
There is India in the cities - Urban India and there is India beyond the cities - Rural India and they are both intentionally, unintentionally, subconsciously, in an organized and disorganized manner are gradually moving towards each other. We want all the facilities of urban areas to reach rural areas. Much as we are trying to create some changes and some movement in trade towards agriculture. Much as we want to give significant value added agriculture, to gain a larger share of national product of GDP. Much as we do realize that 80% of people who live in rural areas are directly or indirectly associated with agriculture and gradually going to move into urban areas and sub-urban areas.
I think there are huge challenges and somewhere when there is integration between BHARAT and INDIA – between Rural India and Urban India; it would be one big challenge. It will be for those who work in the field of taxation. How you integrate people who are completely out of tax net and bring them both into direct as well as indirect taxation. That will be the major challenge. I think you are preparing yourself and equipping yourself for that day to come. When this integration will take place, which of course will be the moment when India will be able to say “we seem to be a developing Country and have become a developed or at least a near developed country”. It is not that something we should not dream of. It is not something that we cannot anticipate.
It is not something we cannot aspire to, because if we don't, we will be defeatists in our attitude. Take a small example; I have been to Dubai recently. An Indian who lived there for thirty years was talking about airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi being smaller than our Safdarjang Airport in Delhi. In their own life time they have seen a huge economic explosion taking place. But of course they have oil. We have seen old pictures of Kualalampur and Singapore. Singapore does not have oil and even water and yet it could become a trading hub. There is a vast difference in our per capita income. India has many advantages. For those interested in tax regime India's potential advantage is the tax payer of our country. Every body who has a car, scooter and uses electricity, they all should be tax payers and they should be contributing to this kitty.
How this enterprise happened? The story of how the founder editor Mr. Shailendra Kumar, sitting there working on one little computer wondering whether there was something at the end of the tunnel, and today you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you see how impressive are our best minds in the field of taxation.
Ten Years is very very short time. I feel that you have made a wonderful beginning. It is an appropriate time that you moved onto International Taxation, a very important idea of transfer pricing that is emerging and I think it will go global.
There may be a time when we would be able to make greater sense with each other in the world. I did not do Taxation but my tutor Mr. Robert Venable is now a very very important Tax Counsel in U.S. He was a tax lawyer not simply because that was one subject that he had to do, he wanted to do. He was tax lawyer because he passionately believed in the idea of Taxation.. It is strange to say he passionately believed in the idea of Tax. When we thought we would go and see movie, we would go and play the game of Tennis and go and walk in the beautiful parks of Oxford and we asked Robert Venable what he would do, he said, he would normally say “Well I am looking for somebody I can play TAX GAMES with”. Tax Games!! What is Tax Game? He said well we just draw tax problems and ask other guy who can solve it and we time ourselves who solves it faster. I thought maybe taking cue from him, he has written some good books on taxation. Wouldn't you, apart from doing this great service that you are doing TAXINDIAONLINE why don't you be the first to introduce Taxation Olympics in our country? I tell you it would be, I can't promise you, it will be more successful than IPL. But I promise you one thing that no Taxmen will question about it. It will involve a lot of young people, lawyers, aspiring tax professionals together and this could become something really big. Nobody seems to have tried Tax Olympics. I know of Mathematics Olympics, various, other Olympics like Physics Olympics. Then you can have a special segment for those who have left and are retired from active service, and say, you can have Veteran Olympics as well, and maybe wheel chair Olympics for those who were in the early years of Taxation in our country and competing among themselves and of course recent people doing exciting work and they are at the frontier – the cutting edge level.
I am very delighted that I could be here - It's like being with many bright children.
I wish you Happy Birthday. I hope you live long and give a lot of happiness and joy to people around.
Even if a taxman smiles don't think it is bad news. I think it is good news.
(Also See Tax havens-driven competition helps Indians park funds outside India: Revenue Secretary + TIOL's Tenth Anniversary Celebrated in Style )