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When Taxmen Tickle You
Dr. V. Gouri Shankar
(Published in 1984 Annual Number)
“Milk is not obtained by drying up the cow; similarly from the country, fruits are obained by proper tapping and not by harassment.”
--Chanakya on Rajniti Shastra
On February 27, 1984, there was a reference in a leading economic journal to ‘budget humour’. The article on the subject ended with the statement “Jokes and taxes do not go well in a leap year. Hope it will be more of the former.” As it turned out, there was not much of either.
But it has been customary for every Finance Minister to coat his bitter proposals of taxation with the sugar of humour.
Evasion of Income Tax has been common in every country and in every age. Sri George Campbell, the Governor of West Bengal in his Report on Income Tax Administration (1870) had a humorous dig at evasion of tax by medical men and lawyers by saying, “There were no lawyers in the highest class while the next higher class included 58 ministers of religion, 17 legal practitioners and no medical men. I wonder whether religion was more lucrative than law.”
Justifying the increase in the rate of duty on cigarettes, Shri Y. B. Chavan stated in his budget speech, “There comes perhaps a time in the life of every smoker when the concern for his own health begins to outweigh the loyalty to an old and faithful companion.For those who cannot shake off their consuming passion, there is at least the consolation that the more taxes they pay, the more they serve the common cause. I am, therefore, fortified in my decision to increase once again the taxation on cigarettes by the thought that whichever way my smoking friends react, there would be a net gain to national welfare.”
Shri Morarji Desai, giving the reasons for withdrawing the spouse allowance, gave the following reasons:
“In a situation where both the husband and the wife are tax-payers in their own right, it would be improper for any outsider to decide as to who is dependent on whom. At present, we avoid this ticklish question by allowing both parties to claim a spouse allowance. This still leaves open the question as to who brings more tax benefit to the partnership through marriage. To eliminate this unintended strain on the relationship of marriage, I propose to provide that where both the husband and the wife have taxable incomes, the spouse allowance will be available to neither.”


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