Of Cabbages, Kings & the Tax Juggernaut

To be frank, we have not been entirely successful in convincing investors of the fairness of our tax system.

The origin of the word ‘juggernaut’ is curiously Indian. It is associated with the chariots of Lord Jagganath which once they started rolling would not stop, often crushing devotees beneath their wheels. Juggernaut then has gone to acquire the meaning of a “mercilessly destructive and unstoppable force.”

For the Modi government, the tax department is literally turning out to be a juggernaut ruthlessly grounding beneath it good intentions and positive business sentiments. And like the huge chariots this one too is virtually unstoppable.

So much so that finance minister Arun Jaitley had to take to writing an article in Financial Times to allay concerns of the global investors. “To be frank, we have not been entirely successful in convincing investors of the fairness of our tax system. New cases of unexpected tax demands have cropped up... It is ironic, and to my government disappointing, that tax issues are damaging our reform credentials precisely when we are on the cusp of modernising and rationalising our tax policies,” he writes.

When the Modi government came to power, it seemed to that the tax issues would be one of the easiest knots to untie. Almost a year down the line, it is turning out to be quite something else. In our cover story this month, we explore more fully the greys that are inevitably part of the discourse. A related column by Dharmesh Trivedi summarises what the death of Cyprus as a tax haven means to current and future investors in India.

You will find a profile of one of our recent and much lauded initiatives—the CFO Board on the website. And if that is not enough then check out our story on the virtues of e-sourcing.

As the summer accelerates, enjoy our regular staples on the fast cars and zany gadgets. There are many more follow-up stories on our website–www.cfo-india.in. Do keep an eye out for fresh content which appears only on the website.

A final piece that I recommend is that by the inimitable David Lim. He takes us through the lessons that we all could emulate from Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew. That, if anything, is a solid reminder for the government and Mr Modi of what is possible in the lifetime and rule of a single man. The journey from one of the poorest to the one of richest nations in the world in flat 30-40 years is possible. Hopefully, in a democracy like India too.

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