New Delhi: The Economic Survey Friday said the government should refrain from raising exemption limits on income tax to facilitate natural growth of individual earnings and widen the taxpayers base, even as it suggested widening of property tax.
The Economic Survey 2015-16, tabled in Parliament today, also called for a review and phasing out of the tax exemption raj that benefited the richer private sector and a "reasonable" taxation for better-off individuals.
A cross-country comparison shows that India currently has the lowest number of taxpayers, it said, adding that nearly 85 percent of the economy still remains outside the tax net.
"Just 5.5 percent of earning individuals are in the tax net and the ratio should be raised to a desirable estimate of about 23 percent," it said.
Making a study of the data since Independence, the Survey said that the exemption thresholds have been raised much more rapidly than underlying income growth resulting in a widening of wedge between average income and threshold limit.
"One of the low hanging fruit would be to refrain from raising exemption thresholds for the personal income tax, allowing natural growth in income to increase the number of taxpayers. In some ways, this would be reform through inaction," the Survey said.
It said that subsidies amounting to Rs 1 lakh crore paid to well-off need to be scaled back. Also tax exemptions raj which often amount to redistribution toward the richer private sector will also need to be reviewed and phased out.
"Reasonable taxation of the better-off, regardless of where they got their income from -- industry, services, real estate or agriculture -- will also help build legitimacy," the Survey added.
It also suggested that property taxation needs to be developed as sparse systematic data on property taxation shows how little attention has been given to this tax.
"Property taxes are especially desirable because they are progressive, buoyant and difficult to evade, since they are imposed on a non-mobile good which can be relatively easily identified," it said.