THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 JUNE 2019 (Abolish cess, surcharge (The Hindu))

Abolish cess, surcharge (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Cess and Surcharge
Mains level: Reason behind to abolish cess, surcharge


  • Governments of different political dispensations have leaned on surcharges and cesses to make up for the shortfall in their revenues from regular taxes.
  • In the process, the Centre has converted what was meant to be a short term revenue mobilisation measure into a regular feature for income-tax payers, both individuals and businesses.
  • That practice needs to be brought to an end for two reasons.
  • It is unfair to those who pay taxes compared to those who wilfully do not.
  • It also unfair to the States, as the Centre does not share taxes collected as surcharges and cesses with the States.

Implications from the Fourteenth Finance Commission

  • The Fourteenth Finance Commission attempted to bring some balance in the revenue share of the Centre and the States, by increasing share of the States in the divisible pool of tax resources to 42 per cent from 32 per cent in its recommendation for 2015-16 to 2020-21, but faced with revenue shortfalls.
  • The Centre has increased the quantum of cess and surcharge over the past few years.
  • The three per cent education cess paid by individuals and businesses has risen to a four per cent education and health cess.
  • The 10 per cent surcharge that P Chidambaram introduced in the 2013-14 Budget on taxable incomes of individuals, firms and association of individuals that exceed ₹1 crore too has risen they now pay 15 per cent surcharge.
  • That apart, those with taxable income of between ₹50 lakh and ₹1 crore have to pay the 10 per cent surcharge.
  • The surcharge on incomes of companies too has risen.

Reason behind to abolish cess, surcharge

  • Budget documents show that the total surcharges and cess that companies were expected to pay in financial year 2018-19 was estimated at ₹93,249 crore while the basic tax on their income was estimated to be 5,27,750 crore.
  • Thus, the cess and surcharge was estimated at 15 per cent of all taxes on income paid by companies, with a bulk of it coming from surcharges.
  • The income tax to be collected for the same year was estimated ₹4,61,182 crore and an additional ₹23,618 crore as cess and surcharge with the cess and surcharge amounting to about five per cent of the taxes paid by individuals.
  • In 2012-13, the surcharge and cess together was about five per cent of all the income tax paid by companies and three per cent of the income tax paid by individuals.
  • While GST has done away with most indirect tax cesses, they persist on the direct taxes side.

Way forward

  • The Union government needs to find better ways to improve its tax collections.
  • A little over 81,300 individuals declared gross income of more than ₹1 crore for assessment year 2017-18 (or financial year 2016-17).
  • The tax department can improve outcomes without resorting to draconian steps.
  • The upcoming first Budget of the second Modi government offers a chance to send a powerful reforms signal by doing away with such cesses and surcharges.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With respect to Indian economy the term ‘Joint supply’ was recently in the news, which of the following are the appropriate examples of Joint Supply?
1. Dog food and cat food
2. Wheat and Straw
3. Shirts and Pants
4. Beef and leather
5. Cold drinks and Pizza

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
a) 1, 2 and 5 only
b) 2 and 4 only
c) 1, 3, 4 and 5 only
d) All of the above

Answer: B
Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the reasons behind to abolish cess and surcharge?