Two years post Demonetisation, a journey towards new India has begun

Every stated aim of demonetisation has delivered the requisite numbers. Every stated aim is taking India as a country and its businesses to a cleaner and transparent system.

Two Years ago this same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on TV and declared INR 1000 and INR 500 currency notes as ‘not a legal tender’. This came as a massive shock to every citizen of the Country and beyond. Since then many naysayers picked up very myopic views and baseless theories to attack the activity as well as the present government.

In my previous articles, I have explained why any claim that demonetisation is a failure is totally misplaced and wrong. I had insisted that many activities are a part of the overall goal setting and should not be viewed in isolation or analyzed in short term. Two years later I feel the analysis can be concluded fairly and based on strong factual data. I try to go back, again, to the objectives of demonetisation and draw conclusions based on available data.

It is important to assess demonetisation only on the objectives as laid out by the Prime Minister himself during his address to the nation on 8th November 2016. Any other self-imposed aim is being unfair and most of the columnists and authors have either done this or assessed long-term impacts in a short-term time span. Gullible or mischievous? I leave it to you. So here are the aims:

  1. Track and tax “black money” in the system
  2. Bring more people into the formal economy and/or tax base
  3. Encourage digital payments leading to “less cash economy”
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In my previous article, based on official data, I had highlighted how the Government has achieved the first part of objective 1 i.e. to ‘track black money’, which can be read in detail. However, here is a quick brief of some facts:

  1. Corporates which account for 2% of the reported PAN have a share of 22.6% in the reported cash transactions.
  2. Proprietors (individual running business) have a share of 41.5% in the reported cash transactions.
  3. Taxpayers doing business have a share of 78.4% in the reported cash transactions.
  4. 36.1% of the PAN holders in the reported cash transactions have not filed a return.
  5. 57% have claimed that the cash deposits were sales.
  6. Taxpayers have provided responses for 13.33 lakh accounts involving cash deposits of around Rs.2.89 lakh crore.
  7. Taxpayers provided details of additional 41,600 bank accounts in which cash was deposited.

So what happened after these details were unearthed?

Better Tax Compliance

It is naïve to believe that any person who held black money did nothing to evade and avoid taxes. What was important is that the system was geared upto correctly assess data and pick up crystal clear important insights. Hence “Project Clean Money” and “Project Insight” were launched.

Direct Tax data released by CBDT in October 2018 is a testimony to massive success in tax compliance and the direct result of demonetisation. Salient Points are as follows:

  1. A total number of taxpayers showing income of above Rs. 1 crore was 88,649 in AY 2014-15, the figure is 1,40,139 for AY 2017-18 (growth of about 60%).
  2. Number of individual taxpayers disclosing income above Rs. 1 crore increased from 48,416 to 81,344 ( growth of 68%)
  3. The number of Returns Filed- Increase of more than 80%. 3.79 crore in FY 2013-14 (base year) to 6.86 crores in FY 2017-18.
  4. Number of Tax Payers- Increased by 40% from 5.27 crores in FY 2013-14 to 7.41 crores in FY 2017-18

The above table only talks about the tax compliance but the stated objective was to tax black money. So here is a quick look at the Direct Tax collections.

The above table sourced from the speech delivered by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley throws some interesting and phenomenal data.

  • Personal Income Tax- The increase in personal income tax indicates increased disclosures of incomes as well as businesses leading to more personal income tax collections
  • Corporate Tax- The increase shows an uptick in formal businesses
  • Other Direct Taxes- They include mainly the taxes and penalties on various Income Disclosure Schemes. Thus, most of the unaccounted income was declared and the tax on it added in the Other Direct Taxes. The rise is a stupendous 1133%

Highlights:

  • During FY 2017-18, 6.84 crore Income Tax Returns (ITRs) were filed with the Income Tax Department as compared to 5.48 crore ITRs filed during FY 2016-17, showing a growth of 24.81%.
  • As compared to 3.79 crores ITRs filed in F.Y. 2013-14, the number of ITRs filed during F.Y. 2017-18 (6.84 crores) has increased by 80.5%.
  • During FY 2017-18, the number of new ITR filers has also increased to 99.49 lakh (as on 30.03.2018) as compared to 85.51 lakh new ITR filers added during FY 2016-17, which translates into a growth of 16.3%.
  • For 2016-17 and 2017-18 the direct tax collections grew at 14.57% and 18.13% respectively and previous two years they were at 8.93% and 6.61% growth rates.
  • The steep increase in the number of ITRs filed as well as the amount of tax collected in 2016-17 and 2017-18 clearly shows that demonetisation has played a big role in both widening the tax base.

Economic Survey 2018 reports that the total number of new taxpayers in the 13 months since demonetisation (November 2016 – November 2017) compared with previous 13-month time windows increased by 1.01 crore filers compared with an average of 62 lakh in the preceding six years. Jan Dhan accounts have increased to around 32.9 crores till October 2018 while the deposits have crossed 85000 crores. Reduced cash payments to workers forced employers to pay them electronically through banks.

This resulted in the formal registration of the workforce under the Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). As per reports, new registrations under EPFO for the earlier unregistered workers crossed the 1 crore mark.

As explained previously the digital economy in India has grown leaps and bounds. A quick look at the numbers reveals the story.

UPI Based Transactions– UPI transactions involve BHIM App and USSD services. RBI and NPCI data reveal an exponential rise in volume and value of UPI transactions. Notice the stupendous rise.

This table does not need any explanations. The numbers speak for themselves.

Mobile Banking Transactions:

Debit and Credit Card Transactions:

Perhaps for naysayers, the growth in debit and credit card transactions is not “very great”. It has only “doubled” in the last 2 years. Cheques, which are important clearing instruments have reduced usage from 11.1 percent in 2016-17 to 7.4 percent in 2017-18. These statistics point out that the public is favouring digital payments.

On the second anniversary of demonetisation, it is perhaps important for everyone to see these numbers and gauge the benefits in terms of tax buoyancy, formalization, tax base expansion, destruction of black money, non-creation of fresh black money and tax collections.

Many people also point out that some of the growth rates in terms of ITR filed were nearly equal or higher in percentage terms in previous years and was it necessary for a massive activity like demonetisation to achieve something that was possible without it? The simple answer to such criticism is ‘Base Effect’. It is simple and practical to understand that achieving higher growth rates at a lower level is easier than to achieve the same or higher growth rate at a higher level. For eg: Doubling income tax return numbers when they are at 1 cr is easier than adding 1 crore ITR’s when total ITR’s filed are 5 Crores.

From tax to GDP Ratio of 5.47% and personal income tax buoyancy factor (PIBF) 0.80 in FY 2015-16 our country has an achieved a Tax to GDP ratio of 5.98% and a PIBF of 2.20 in FY 2017-18. Direct Tax to GDP ratio has shown an increase, but the biggest growth is seen in the buoyancy Factors. Buoyancy Factor is defined as the growth of tax in relation to growth in GDP. Higher buoyancy factor shows tax collection is growing at a larger rate than GDP.

Every stated aim has delivered the requisite numbers. Every stated aim is taking India as a country and its businesses to a cleaner and transparent system. Old black money in the system is destroyed and it is nearly impossible to create new black money without getting detected in the new system. Demonetisation was an important step in building a culture where tax compliance is a habit. Demonetisation and GST are heralding the New India.


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