“Even though this is the first day of my stepping into the new shoes, I can sense a quick sapling taking shape from a new seed. Given the right nourishment and cooperation by people, it has the potential to turn into a game changing tree for our State.”It was disclosed by Mr. Manpreet Singh Badal, after assuming charge as Minister of Finance, Taxation, Governance Reforms and Programme Implementation, here at Punjab Civil Secretariat-1.He further said, “for me it is a matter of exceptional pride that I assume this charge on the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. While my new responsibilities provide some continuity to my previous position, I shall now have the added responsibility of commercial taxation. i.e. GST, VAT and other misc. levies on Petroleum Products.”"We have done well, rather exceptionally well, so far despite a near bankrupt treasury that we inherited in 2017 from the previous regime. However for a Finance Minister the situation is always challenging, never providing a minute of rest or comfort", he added.The Finance Minister said, “I’m thus conscious that the challenge before our government is huge: particularly to reach and penetrate with far greater thrust in areas where we have not been able to make as much contribution as was expected. There is always ‘Dil Maange More’ and you can be rest assured that this government, and I as its FM, will do everything to bring joy and festivities to your lives and homes.”He said that as you know by now, that I shall now get the opportunity to look at the subject of commercial taxes in addition to my erstwhile portfolio. While I have yet to get a detailed briefing on key issues both from my officials as well as from the business, I thought it proper to list my broad understanding on the subject as follows:-
ROLE OF TAXES
I look at taxes as an integral part of the overall policy of the government to usher progress, economic development, social well-being, employment generation equity and justice. Taxes, seen merely a revenue requirement, can cause imbalances in our overall priorities. I wish to maintain this delicate balance in our mind while taking future policy decisions.
Over the next fortnight I intend to meet all major sections of our trade industry, commerce and service sector and ensure that all their legitimate concerns are understood and, wherever needed, brought before the GST Council or other appropriate authorities for appropriate resolution. I don’t wish to see a situation where any section of our business feels that its concerns have not reached the right person in policy making. Those that need actions at my end will be settled with urgency and concern.
FRIENDLIER TAX ADMINISTRATION
Mr. Badal said that I’m a strong believer that taxes are best collected through business progress and entrepreneurial freedom. Contact with businesses for tax enforcement should be minimal. We already have state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that has automated most of the processes. We shall strengthen these further to make tax collection and scrutiny processes remote, faceless and trouble free.
CUT DOWN LITIGATION
Litigation helps none except the advocates on both sides. I shall like to know areas of tax ambiguity which I shall like to remove through clarifications.
The Government recognizes that many stakeholders are facing significant disruption due to COVID-19. The Government wants to give all stakeholders time to submit their issues which I shall take up these within GSTC.
IMPROVE TAX COLLECTIONS
He said that It is a hard fact of life that Governments need revenue. However this will be through the use of judicious methods keeping the interests of law-abiding tax payers. I would hate to see tax harassment of any kind and would like to monitor any such aberrations personally.Mr. Badal said, “I’m going to take measures that will improve the levels of voluntary compliance reducing any incentive for tax evasion while targeting habitual and organized offenders.”
ROLE OF TAX PROFESSIONALS
The Government recognizes the role of tax professionals who adhere to high professional standards and channelize their competencies to strengthen tax processes. I’m sure there would be many bright ideas that will help our tax teams to learn and make tax enforcement better for both sides.
I would be failing in my duty as a Finance Minister if I don’t mention that an optimal balance is needed between Revenue and Expenditure, Development and Social Justice, Facilitation and Enforcement, our short term goals on one hand and fiscal prudence and sustainability on the other. It thus requires tight rope walking, not much different from what a common man faces every day at his home. I see in each of you a FM to that extent which I hope will guide me in my actions and also provide support when I feel it is most needed.