The language bar in taxation
While talking of broadening tax base, we always talk of getting in more and more people in the tax net. Seems logical and convincing, but have we ever thought of educating those probable tax payers, right from the school. While discussing with my classmates and Professors, I was surprised to discover that though about fifty percent of our country’s revenue comes from Indirect Taxes, there was no course on indirect taxation right from the school to college education. Even the law courses also did not cover subjects of Indirect Taxation, except some recently introduced five years law programme. However, in commerce and law courses, Income Tax and then existing VAT laws were part of the curriculum and recently GST has also been introduced in such courses.
Even if one tries to get through the tax subjects, the biggest hurdle is its linguistic marginalization. Since Independence, the biggest hurdle in the tax administration and education is it’s total dependence on English. With barely 10% of the total population having the ability to understand English, even after so much of educational advancements, how can we think of reaching the masses about tax education? Surprisingly, entire GST system is working on GSTN, which is totally engulfed by English and I have seen many State Tax authorities of Gujarat writing letters to the tax payers in Gujarati language.
However, I could feel the winds of change. It can be seen now that for the first time in India, people have started discussing ‘taxation’ and the Government is also focused on educating and reaching out to the masses. For the first time, a compilation of FAQs on GST had been published in Hindi and almost all regional languages apart from English. This is a good sign for the tax system and the entire country. Here, I would appeal to all intellectuals and media persons to discuss taxation mostly in the vernacular language of the masses in the respective states and not in the language which improves their images or brand them ‘intellectuals and elite’ by virtue of their overt fluency in English.