S.Rajarathnam Prolific Writer and Renowned Tax Consultant
The most common topic of discussion is now globalisation, which is understood as a process of international integration from interchange of ideas and products in all aspects of life generating interdependence, necessary for concerted action on matters like global warming, water and air pollution. Globalisation is desirable in all political, economic and cultural spheres.
This world-wide process has led to a shrinkage of world with distances becoming shorter for mutual benefit. In business, trade is becoming increasingly global with outsourcing and supply chaining. Economic globalisation offers opening to world market with freer movement of capital and labour arising out of economic necessity following technological globalisation with cultural and social globalisation as fallouts. It is the theory behind globalisation.
Its historical development
Globalisation is a historical process generally recognised even from the time of Sumerian and Indus Valley Civilisations in the third millennium before Christ, Greek and Roman civilizations following thereafter, Chinese Civilisation left its mark because of the silk route with Persian and Arabic countries serving as intermediaries not only for trade but also for religion, philosophy and for that matter even diseases(!). There was movement of people not only artists and craftsmen, but also robbers and refugees. Portuguese and Spanish empires later British and Dutch companies colonized Asia and America and later to establish multi-national corporations.
World Trade Organisations and International Monetary Fund facilitated this development in modern times. Trade negotiations in Doha, Kyoto Protocol to deal with environmental problems, student exchange programmes and the effect of comparative advantages in free exchanges of goods and services across the border were responsible for the paradigm shift of economic activity to emerging economies. Development of technology and transport infrastructure with jumbo jets and low cost airlines paved the way for international tourism and cultural exchanges enabling migration between the countries described as transnational marriage between the peoples of different countries especially between the countries in British Commonwealth, Europe, America, Africa and Middle East.
Usage of internet and other expanded means of cross-border communication from telegraph with transatlantic cables are substituted by telecommunication. Foreign direct and indirect investments for countries spelt economic globalisation.
Globalisation has a large impact in sports with almost all games internationalized not merely at the time of Olympics but on a continuous basis. So is music with jazz reaching world audience with evolution of hybrid music.
Eating habits are getting more universalized with spices like chilly and pepper. French fries and pizza culture with soyabean, palm and sunflower oil being some of the items.
Globalisation is spreading more aggressively in the economic field. World trade is increasing from year to year with World Bank and International Monetary Fund facilitating convertibility of foreign exchange.
India’s role in globalisation
India is one of the countries committed to globalisation not only as member of the U.N. and its agencies but also because of multi-lateral agreements like General Agreement for Trade and Tariff (GATT) and bilateral agreements between friendly countries in as many as 134 comprehensive Double Tax Avoidance Agreements with various countries.
India has made rapid strides in service industry. It has undertaken business process outsourcing in a large scale responsible for employment growth and rise in GDP.
The effort of the Indian Government to fall in line with international efforts and practice to have an understanding with all countries to encourage free flow of trade both from and to India has been of benefit for India.
Tax Laws and Practice – A hurdle
Tax laws in India notwithstanding Double Tax Avoidance Agreements, are clouded by darkness more particularly in respect of cross-border transactions badly in need of reform. Transfer Pricing Rules, Equalisation Levy, General Anti Avoidance Rule (GAAR), Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), Advance Pricing Agreement (APA), Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) and Place of Effective Management (POEM) and Foreign Tax Credit among others meant as devices for solution raise problems more often better solved by crystal gazing than by logic.
Statutory “clarifications” by way of amendments by insertion of new sections, provisos, Explanations and Rules, besides Circulars and Instructions, apart from torrent of case law pouring from the Tribunal and the High Courts conflicting with each other makes the law a Babel of unstable and bewildering anarchy. It does not make the task of the taxpayers any the easier.
Ever changing Government policy permitting investment through Participatory Notes (PN) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with Easy Exit Route offer foreign investors a veritable playground with scope for gambling for the adventurers, but a trap for the unwary.
Fiscal policy in practice
Law is bad enough, but it is worse administered. Tax compliance has become a hazardous exercise. Money Laundering Act provides for multifarious offences with horrendous penalties, fines and imprisonment hovering around every international transaction. Tax base for past investment at the current rate and deeming the year of accrual of income as the year of information now imported under the Black Money Act to the Scheme of Income Declaration Scheme, 2016 are the most alarming provisions. Budgets run on pedestrian lines with hardly any innovation. Allocations as for education, health care or food security are not need-based.
Is it not amazing that Advance Ruling was destabilised by the Supreme Court itself holding it to be not final and binding on either party to the Ruling rendered by an Authority presided by a former Judge of the Supreme Court in Columbia Sportswear Company v. Director of Income-tax  346 ITR 161 (SC)? It no longer serves the purpose, but an amendment broad-basing Advance Ruling by the Finance Bill, 2017 makes a mockery of the entire idea, when it has fallen to disuse.
So is the National Tribunal Tax Act, 2005, which was declared unconstitutional because of certain provisions therein, but no effort to remove the vulnerable part of this Act is now lodged in the limbo of forgotten reforms, so that a means of ensuring a quicker resolution of disputes is still a distant dream.
Demonetisation and after
Demonetisation Ordinance 2016 has created more than a ripple not only as regards the tax effect for those holding HD Notes of sizeable amount, but also for those in lesser position in life with cash crunch caused by the enormous task of replacement of alternate currency of gigantic size urgently required within a short period.
There have been a number of Circulars as regards the time limit and other compliance requirements by an elaborate Circular by the Reserve Bank of India dated 2nd December, 2016 answering as many as 28 queries besides offering email address and phone number for any further query quickly followed by another Circular dated 27th December, 2016 answering 27 more queries and a still another Circular dated 12th February from the Income-tax Department issuing a questionnaire on 35 points on which response is required from those who encashed HD notes requiring detailed information within three days of the Circular before 15th February apparently applicable for those who have encashed Rs.50,000 at a time or Rs.2 lakhs cumulatively after demonetisation.
The way post-demonetisation matters are being tackled leaves much to be desired. What is more, the enormous amount of revenue which is being generated by remonetisation of 97 per cent of Rs.15.5 lakhs crores which are being surrendered in bank accounts with duty to explain the source of such amount followed by an amnesty by a scheme providing for 50 per cent tax rate under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yogna Rules, 2016. An unprecedented massive revenue is in the cards, but it is surprising that no credit has been taken in the budget or even in Finance Minister’s speech on 1st February, 2017. If only it has been taken into account, there could have been a much more striking allocations with inspiring schemes like food security and linking of rivers. The collections offer a golden opportunity for the budget to create confidence in the future, but has been missed indicating the poor manner budgets are prepared with least imagination.
The fiscal policy in India in practice has done little to avail the favourable climate offered by globalisation.