Commercial Tax Department of Odisha has shown good result, and year after year, it has been achieving its target. The department has been focusing on voluntary compliance and making the tax administration more transparent and accountable with the use of information technology. “Our aim is to collect the taxes in a manner which does not cause any impediments to anyone and that is only possible, if we make the processes such as enforcement, and compliance non-inclusive and hassle free” says Manoj Ahuja, Commissioner, Commercial Tax Department, Government of Odisha in conversation with Mohd Ujaley.
State governments are using Information technology to streamline the process of tax collection and minimise the leakage. How successful have you been in doing so?
If you want to improve the governance, streamline the process, meet your goals and monitor the development then use of information technology becomes necessary. It not only helps you in providing better services to the people in hassle free-way, but also raises your efficiency and thus brings better results. In the Commercial Tax Department, our essential aim is to collect the taxes in a manner which does not cause any impediment to anyone. That is only possible, if we make the processes such as enforcement, and compliance non-inclusive and hassle free. Any wrong decision at our part may adversely affect the business of other parties. In such a scenario, role of IT becomes very important and it has helped us a lot by simplifying the process of filling taxes. People can easily file the taxes. We can easily analyse all these from our backhand, this helps us in minimising the leakage and removing the bottleneck and we have been quite successful on that front.
Commercial tax arrears of the Odisha government is almost Rs 4694.45 crore (as on April1, 2012), this includes Rs 4344.61 crore of sales tax (Odisha sales tax, Central sales tax and value added tax) dues pending on different organisations. Why you have not been able to realise that money?
This is basically long pending issue and we are aware of it. The arrears are accruing since more than one and half decade. We do not have a centralised database for all these arrears. To solve this problem, we are getting all the data together. Hopefully, once we get the data, will do the analyses and have proper perspective about arrears. Thereafter, we can have specific strategy to collect the arrears.
In FY 2012-13, you have collected Rs 7003.46 crore by way of sales tax till January end, which is 17.62 per cent growth over Rs 5954.29 crore achieved in the corresponding period of previous fiscal. What are you expectation for next financial year?
We are hopeful that we will do better in next financial year. We are bringing more information technology intervention in our process and I believe that will improve compliance and should raise the tax collection. We are also making our internal process online, wherein system of award, assessment, appeal, and recovery will be streamline, which will improve efficiency of our organisation. We will also use business intelligence tools to enhance the efficiency and taxes. We already integrated our data with mining department data, the fact that we have the same data helps in ensuring compliance and raising collection. I am hopeful that we will perform better.
What are the major challenges? Is it tax reform, leakage or unawareness about tax and taxation?
One of the most challenging aspects is that things should be in organised manner and should be apparent to everybody because then only people respond to it. I agree that tax laws should be simplified and there should be little scope of different interpretation of same law. Awareness is really important. Simplifying the process helps people in filling their taxes and process should be such that an honest tax payer should not have to worry about tax department.
How has been department experience working with private organisations. Does the PPP model at various level works?
First of all we need to mark out the areas where private intervention is required. Taxation is a regulatory function and has to be done by statuary body. However, other areas such IT and manning helpdesk etc., can be outsourced. We have done so. This does help the quality and raises standard of our services.
What is your vision in terms of implementation of various initiatives and efforts in your department?
We have a vision document, and also tax payer charter. We want to collect taxes in a manner which does not create barrier to business. A businessman should not worry about tax department, if he pays his tax honestly. We want the process to be as easy as possible for everyone.