India is much better geared to cope with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the economy as well as informal sector job creation is expected to continue to bounce back through this year, Tarun Bajaj, Secretary, Revenue & Department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry said in an interview. Edited Excerpts:
With the financial year 2020-21 behind us, where do you see the state of the economy this year? Is the second wave a worry?
The state of the economy is far better.
You have seen the growth rate being projected by various agencies. We have assumed a 10.4% growth this year, but IMF has projected more than 11%, while Fitch Ratings yesterday projected a rate of 12.8%. So, I think we are now looking at the economy in a much healthier state.
However, the second wave is a small worry, I would say. But at the same time, we are better equipped to handle it.
Now, no State is saying it is going for a lockdown. Maharashtra announced, but it is not doing, which is very sensible.
To live with COVID is a new normal. So now that our health infrastructure is upgraded and vaccines are there, we should handle it with these methods rather than a lockdown.
If we do that, we will also ensure jobs in the informal sector, and that the economy keeps growing. And, we have got great adaptability.
Now, when I see Delhi compared to when it was a full lockdown, one could drive down at 100 kmph. Right now, the traffic is perfectly normal.
So, I think that people are conscious that we now have to live with the coronavirus in a sense. But I am sure we will be able to overcome this situation.
Have revenue collections improved over the past two months, perhaps more than the revised estimates presented in the Budget?
The revenue figures presently have been much better in the months of February and March, both in direct and indirect taxes.
The direct tax gross collections will not be lower by more than 2%-3% of what we collected last year, 2019-20, which is a big thing.
As a matter of fact we have given ₹70,000 crore more to the taxpayers as refund over the last year which was about ₹1.86 lakh crore. This year we have refunded more than ₹2.62 lakh crore.
The GST collections for the month of March have created a record; it has never been so high. We have crossed the record collections by a good margin.
What is the update on tax disputes resolved under the Vivaad Se Vishwas dispute resolution scheme?
More than 1.33 lakh applications have come worth ₹99,960 crore of which about ₹53,800 crore have already been adjusted (as on March 31, 5 p.m.).
Industry players, foreign businesses in particular, are concerned about the implications of the equalisation levy as its phrasing suggests it could cover even firms not operating from an e-commerce platform but merely exchanging e-mails or using digital modes of payment as part of a transaction…
We will also issue a clarification in this regard.