The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in New Delhi today (July 1, 2018).
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that adherence to a fair taxation system is much more than merely providing revenue to the government. It is part of the same social contract that underpins our Constitution. Under this Constitution we have given ourselves certain rights but also certain responsibilities. Taxes are what we pay to get social benefits in the form of public goods and services, health and education facilities, better infrastructure, law and order, and secure borders. It is crucial that this responsibility is shared by the widest possible number of citizens – whether they pay taxes directly or indirectly. It is the solemn duty of each one of us to contribute to the society that we share and the nation that we are part of.
The President said that chartered accountants have a key role in advancing such a culture. They are both facilitators of tax payers and of the taxation system as well as watchdogs of public trust. In many respects, a tax system is only as complicated as they want to make it. As professionals, it is their legitimate right to advise their clients on tax planning. However, there is a fine line between intelligent tax planning – and tax dodging and tax evasion. Chartered accountants are custodians of that fine line.
The President said that maintaining such propriety is not just a legal duty for all tax payers and for all taxation and financial professionals, there is also a morality added to it. When banking scandals take place, when large borrowers abscond and leave their banks in the lurch – or, as in the case of Satyam some years ago, when promoters themselves embezzle funds and carry out fraud – it represents a breach of faith. It amounts to a betrayal of not only corporate ethics but of honest fellow citizens and of our collective value system. White collar crimes don’t leave behind a smoking gun; they leave behind broken hearts and a shaken confidence. When such episodes occur, it would be in order to introspect. It would be relevant to ask if those responsible for auditing balance sheets have truly done their duty – or if they have contributed to the sorry situation.
Pointing out that today is the first anniversary of the implementation of GST, the President said GST has helped us achieve many goals. It has enhanced the ease of doing business by creating a common platform, across the country, for registration, duty payments, filing of returns and refund of taxes. GST has also enhanced reliance on technology and reduced scope for subjectivity.
The President congratulated all citizens and every stakeholder for the successful rollout of GST. He said that the GST rollout has been part of a sustained effort over the past few years to formalise the economy, enforce rule of law, promote transparency in financial and business transactions, and make India much more of a tax compliant society.
The President urged ICAI to promote financial literacy among our young people, and especially among women. He stated that education of women is a game-changer for any country and any civilisation. Greater financial literacy among women takes this process forward. It will help make us a more prosperous and a more equal society.