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Rs 40,000-cr tax mop-up shortfall looms

Vrishti Beniwal  |  New Delhi 

Barely four months are left for the financial year to end and the government has reached only the halfway mark of its tax revenue collection target.

After admitting to possible slippages in its fiscal deficit and disinvestment targets, the finance ministry is now jittery about its tax collection target too. If that is also missed, it will be the third time in four years that the Budget target is missed.

According to finance ministry officials, direct tax collections could be around Rs 5,00,000 crore by the end of the current financial year, while indirect tax mop-up could be in the range of Rs 3,85,000 crore to Rs 3,90,000 crore — an overall shortfall of about Rs 40,000 crore.

This may exert further pressure on fiscal deficit, which could go above the Budget estimate of 4.6 per cent. With extra expenditure having been incurred and a shortfall in non-tax revenue target likely, the ministry was banking heavily on tax collections, so much so that targets for revenue boards had been increased by 10 per cent to make up for the unrealised revenue from the government’s disinvestment programme.

A GLASS HALF EMPTY
DIRECT TAX COLLECTIONS
  Apr-Nov 
2010
Apr-Nov 
2011
Budget
Estimate
% of
BE 
Corporation Tax 1,38,461 1,46,279 3,59,990 40.63
Income Tax 77,768 88,567 1,72,026 51.48
Other taxes 399 487 635 76.69
Total 2,16,628 2,35,333 5,32,651 44.18
INDIRECT TAX COLLECTIONS
  Apr-Nov
2010
Apr-Nov 
2011
Budget 
Estimate
% of 
BE 
Customs 86,883 1,00,062 1,51,700 65.96
Central Excise 86,379 94,441 1,64,116 57.54
Service Tax 42,852 58,041 82,000 70.78
Total 2,16,114 2,52,544 3,97,816 63.48
Source: Ministry of Finance

In the first eight months of this financial year, total tax collections stood at only 52.4 per cent, or Rs 4,87,877 crore, of the Budget Estimate (BE) of Rs 9,30,467 crore. Of this, direct tax mop-up was 44 per cent, or Rs 2,35,333 crore, of the Rs 5,32,651-crore BE. Indirect tax collections fared a little better, achieving about 63 per cent, or Rs 2,52,544 crore, of the estimated Rs 3,97,816 crore.

The revenue department now has a mammoth task of collecting over Rs 1,10,000 crore per month in the remaining part of 2011-12, if it has to meet the Budget Estimate. The required mop-up per month would shoot up by another Rs 14,000 crore if it has to meet the revised target of about Rs 9,85,000 crore.

The heads of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) have already conceded that the targets, especially the revised ones, would be difficult to achieve.

If past records are anything to go by, the BE might also be missed. Last year, when the government exceeded both its BE and RE, about 56 per cent of the total target had been achieved by November. In 2009-10 and 2008-09, when the targets were missed, only about 50 per cent of the target had been met till November.

However, a closer look — at both direct and indirect tax mop-up so far this year — tells more than what meets the eye. The growth of net direct tax collections is not as bad as it appears, because the CBDT has frontloaded refunds this year. The department has already cleared tax refunds of over Rs 72,000 crore and another Rs 20,000 crore is likely to be given in the next four months. These had stood at Rs 57,000 crore in 2009-10 and Rs 39,000 crore in 2008-09.

Moreover, advance tax collections for the third and fourth quarters would reflect in the December and March numbers. So, direct tax collections are expected to get somewhat better from here. On the other hand, going forward, indirect tax collections are expected to falter.

A major area of worry for the ministry is central excise collections, which have declined 6.5 per cent from those in the same month last year. An indicator of economic activity, excise duty may slip further, as industrial output has been slumping. It dropped 5.1 per cent in October.

Another reason for a slowdown in indirect tax collections is the cut in duties on petroleum products in June, which resulted in a loss of Rs 38,000 crore to the government in the remaining part of 2011-12. The government had removed the Customs duty of 5 per cent it levied on crude oil, brought down import duty on petrol and diesel from 7.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent and on other petroleum products to 5 per cent from 10 per cent. It also abolished the Rs 2.6 per litre basic excise duty on diesel. Service tax collections, continuing the high growth trajectory, have emerged as a face-saver for the revenue department. The growth, however, does not mean much, as the estimated revenue from service tax comprises only about 20 per cent of the total indirect tax collection target, compared with 41 per cent from excise and 39 per cent from Customs.

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First Published: Sat, December 24 2011. 00:21 IST
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