1. Direct the Tax Code and VAT it
The Income Tax Act was framed in 1961. Despite its amendments and addendums it has outlived its utility. A simplified, more readable law was framed and came to be called the Direct Tax Code (DTC). This Code has been hanging fire for far too long, for whatever reasons, including Parliament not being allowed to work. It’s time Mr. Prime Minister you got this legislation moving. Despite what well meaning people will tell you, please do not tinker with the Code or try to attempt something new. The DTC has been stitched together by experts and so let it stay as it is. In the first month of coming to power have it passed. Its disorientations, if any, can be corrected with time.
Another legislation that has been in the limbo for a long time, again due to petty political considerations, that needs to be pushed in ASAP is the Goods and Services Tax Act (GST). Value Added Tax (VAT) is the cornerstone of the GST. VAT is the global gold standard and is possibly the most efficient way of collecting tax. We think that it’s a shame if a country like India, which prides in its unity in the midst of diversity, has interstate taxes and differential tax rates. It makes us look a divided nation and tax-wise it is both archaic and anarchic. Mr. Prime Minister, talk to state governments and use all your persuasive skills to make them accept it. If need be use the carrot and stick approach and let’s, yes let’s, get going with GST in the second year of your regime.
2. Weed corruption out
We have had corruption in India reaching endemic proportion and no party is immune to it. While some have been caught with their hands in the till, others have gotten away. Worse still, the guilty don’t get punished, the stigma is made to stay, and petty political mileage is extracted. I don’t know about private sector corruption but corruption in government organs like the tax departments, the registration departments and sundry other outfit gets to people’s goat. Have punitive punishment in place and let no one go scot-free whether he owes allegiance to your party or to some other party. The corruption the common man faces is at this level. Weed it out. For that you need a Lok Pal with teeth that can bite. You also need the state Lok Pal Acts. Let it be strong. Let the chief minister not have a final say in selection, as it makes a monkey of the process. Kill cash as currency. Ensure that the ubiquitous mobile is the mode of all payments; whether you buy grocery or whether you buy a car; whether you buy from the pavement shop or from an up-market mall.