Address by Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Honourable Vice President at the 76th Batch of the Indian Revenue Service at the National Academy of Direct Taxes (NADT) in Nagpur, Maharashtra on April 15, 2024

Nagpur, Maharashtra | April 15, 2024

No one ever steps in the same river twice. Things have changed. Here I am, not the same man as I was then, and you are not the same as earlier. Change is the only constant.

Distinguished member of the faculty, an institute has no meaning without devoted, committed, informed, erudite faculty. This one is gifted.

I paid tribute to the father of the nation, I saw scripted there, Gandhiji reflected “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him or her”

Another talisman by Mahatma Gandhi ji “I care for your freedom because I valued mine.” Just imagine what he said!

You are taking a leap into the nation that is on the rise, and your job will be as a public servant to sustain the incremental trajectory.

I must particularly make reference to two officers of Bhutan Royal Services. They will carry our message of goodwill to the people of Bhutan, and this connection will be grateful for both sides. Keep this connection all your life. Bhutan is a lovely country. Congratulations to them.

There was a time when some other service held the primary position. It is just like if you go to Delhi, you go to various colleges of Delhi, and you go to one college and ask the very other college, they will say the college across the street. The college I am referring to is one in which Secretary General Rajya Sabha was a student in Saint Stephen College. When someone asks them where is Hindu College, they would not take the name; they would say the college across the road. This used to happen with services also, not any longer. Indian Revenue Service is unique; it has its own position. It is being rivalled by others. The Indian Revenue Service holds a pivotal role as the custodian of our taxation system. Because democracy is being driven by economic strength and you are integrally connected with that.

As revenue officers, you are not merely tax administrators; you are entrusted with the stewardship of our fiscal framework, essential for the functioning of our democracy and the provision of public services.

As public servants you are required to exemplify by conduct discipline, integrity, humility, ethics and sense of commitment. You are in a category of youth that is being watched and envied. You are natural role models, and you must be, therefore, inspirational and motivational to young minds all over the country.

The world is changing at incredible speed. It is changing by seconds. Take your own domain, where you will be taking big steps. There has been transformational change in dynamics of tax administration and collection.

We have moved from a predominantly traditional, paper-based system to a modern, technology-driven ecosystem where information is readily accessible and processes are streamlined for the benefit of both authorities and taxpayers.

This transformation has revolutionised the way we administer taxes, making it more efficient, user-friendly, and transparent. Gone are the days when tax filing was a cumbersome and complex process, intimidating to the general public.

People used to take leave from their service to be at the disposal of chartered accountants and work for several days, fearing that their tax return may not be accurate. Not any longer. The department has made such headway that all you need to file your return is available on your computer.

Another aspect which you will relish, and for us, it is significant, is how amazingly friendly the system has become. Otherwise, a visit or a message from the tax inspector or officer would make you lose sleep, and you would worry about how to connect with them. But now, the system is friendly and hand-holding. It has been transformed from tax collection to tax facilitation. This change is significant and is altering the mindset of the nation's taxpayers. I am one of them, and I am amazed at how quickly returns are processed now.

Taxpayers are mightily and surprisingly impressed with quick refunds and timely addressing of concerns

Now, transparency and accountability are new norms. The formal economy is fast replacing the informal structure of the economy. Embrace technology. People are realising that it is always gainful to be part of the formal economy than that of the informal economy. The formal economy gives you satisfaction and growth in a legally scripted manner, whereas the second one brings problems and travails.

Taxpayers and citizens are increasingly demanding. They expect the tax administration to demonstrate fairness, equity, and transparency in all its facets and activities. Tax administrations are challenged to keep pace, answer the taxpayers' new needs and expectations while keeping tax fraud at bay.

Dealing with tax fraud is a menace to society, a danger to the system. You have to deal with it with a heavy hand; your chairman indicated there has to be effective coupling of hand-holding reforms and demonstrating deterrents are equally necessary.

There is a greater need to focus on concealing transactions and money. Some people still do not fall in order; they still think they can bypass your technological inputs, your intellect. They are mistaken; they will certainly be in your net. But better than getting them in the net is counselling them, disseminate information so that these elements are brought into the system. They must realise that the only good way to contribute to the nation is to follow the rule of law.

People need to be made aware of the hazards of this. Technology is constantly watching them with Aadhaar, with PAN card, with transactions being necessarily reported, the department is fully aware of what is taking place. In the tax fraud category, you can't outsmart the system. Sooner or later, you will be in the net. This counselling is sufficient for them. Tax fraud is a challenge to social order. He gets ill-gotten wealth that is not accountable to the department. Take steps vigilantly, use technology, and you will find an easy answer for it.

The introduction of online portals, digital platforms, and automated systems has simplified tax compliance, making it easier and more convenient for individuals and businesses to fulfil their obligations, and enhancing the ease of doing business in the country.

The increasing digitalization of tax administration in India is truly laudable. As a matter of fact, global entities including the World Bank have appreciated our digital penetration. Our transactions are digital; they have contributed massively to the formal economy evolution.

The Faceless E-Assessment system has already brought about a paradigm shift from territorial jurisdiction to dynamic jurisdiction. It has introduced anonymity in income tax assessment and appeals to ensure transparency and accountability, and is living up to its objective of ‘honouring the honest’

Friends, we are living in a time that is tough. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and advanced analytics are improving tax governance and helping curb tax evasion. Most importantly, this enhances the trust of the taxpayer in the system, which in turn encourages greater compliance. As young professionals, you will have to grapple with disruptive technology. You will have to embrace them beyond your curriculum. Take, for example, blockchain and machine learning. These two technologies will always be available to discharge your obligations to your work and to the nation outstandingly.

Blockchain technology is an advanced database mechanism that allows transparent information sharing within a business network. A blockchain database stores data in blocks that are linked together in a chain. As future custodians of this evolving tax regime, I urge each one of you to embrace technology as an enabler of positive change. Technology also discourages the informal handling of cash, which is extremely damaging to society. Steps like these have brought about unprecedented transparency and accountability within the system, aligning with the new norm of zero-tolerance to corruption in Bharat today. Power corridors have been duly neutralised of corrupt elements. Corruption is no longer a password to opportunities and contracts; corruption is a passage to a place that is a jail.

Constant and continuous skill upgrading and exposure to newer facets of taxation such as international taxation and implications of tax treatise will also be crucial for the future.

Your role in ensuring effective tax administration & in creating deterrence against tax evasion make you critical contributors to the act of nation-building.

I gathered it from newspaper report that you have initiated mechanism today to reach out to those and the number is more than 15 million or so who were required to file tax return have not filed it this is the major challenge. I would urge every citizen of this country to take note of it. We do have large number of taxpayer 8 crores or above but we are nation of 1.4 billion the number has to go up. In taking recourse to non invasive mechanism persuasion, counseling, hand holding but ensuring at end of day each of them files return. Make them feel proud that by filing return by paying your tax you are becoming participant in growth of nation that is on the rise and the rise is unstoppable.

India has more Promise than any large country in this world.

India is no longer a country with potential or sleeping giant. India is very much fast moving towards becoming a global superpower

We are now a land of Hope and Possibility, a favourite global destination of investment and opportunity, Bharat is preparing itself as a future global superpower.

There are skeptics outside and inside, those skeptics are trying to occupy public space my message to them, the skeptics of our exponential development and unstoppable rise need to step out of “bubble” to experience the environment of Hope and Possibility.

This is a different Bharat, the fastest growing major economy in the world. We are defining global discourse in several ways. India gave yoga to the world; on 21st June, it is celebrated all over the world. Our visionary Prime Minister took the initiative in the United Nations, and in the shortest time, the largest number of countries came forward to support it.

India is the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance. Look at our landscape; it is dotted by solar power, biofuels, millet, the voice of the global south, and the like. If you go further, you will find our soft diplomatic power has a cutting edge. Now, during the G20 presidency, India became the voice of the global south. Look at the kind of GDP they represent, the population they represent, and there was not being heard. It is now on a prominent platform, thanks to Bharat, our visionary leadership.

At one time after independence, India was among the poorest countries in the world. For our survival in the 60s, we used to wait for aid from outside, particularly from the USA. When I was elected to parliament in 1989 and had the good fortune to be in the ministry in that government, I tell you, what was the size of our economy in 1991, you will be surprised. Our economy, that was known as “Sone ki Chidiya” at one time, was less than the economy of Paris and London, two cities separately, that were our size. And now, we are ahead of the UK, Canada, and France. In the next 2 years, we will be ahead of Japan and Germany.

India is the fastest growing major economy in the world, with an average GDP growth rate of 6.5% to 7%.

Friends, the path towards Viksit Bharat@2047will be charted by young minds like you. Your dedication, integrity, and commitment to excellence will play a pivotal role in shaping the economic landscape of our country for years to come.

You must instill in people a sense that the surest passage to success is to be tax compliant and law abiding. In everyday life, if you take shortcuts, this will turn out to be the longest, painful route. When you are in need of shortcuts, unbearable pain will be inflicted on you if you take shortcuts with the law, with legal regime, with tax regime.

Potential taxpayers need to be informed about the advantages of being part of the formal economy, and the travails of not being so.

In the pursuit of India's growth story, I call upon you to work tirelessly. You can't afford to spare even a second because our country, unlike others, has a civilization of more than 5000 years. We are cut out to be a global leader in Amrit kaal. We have set for my foundation aur Bharat to be a developed nation in 2047. People like you, young people in your category, they constitute the core strength of this marathon march of viksit Bharat@2047.

I call upon you to work towards achieving our collective aspirations. Empower taxpayers with information, foster trust through transparency, and uphold the highest standards of integrity in your professional conduct.

There comes a time in everybody's life when we seek to deviate from sublimity, spirituality, ethical standards, or integrity. Don't yield to that weak moment, because that yielded moment will always resonate in your ear. If you succumb to the temptation, which is more momentary, which is not lasting, don't become a victim of that. Your career has to blossom for you, your family, your friends, and the nation.

Each of you is a catalyst for change, with the potential to take the benefits of economic progress to every corner of our diverse society.

I once again congratulate the graduating officers on this memorable milestone. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead with enthusiasm and a spirit of service to humanity. You are much beyond just being members of Indian Revenue Service. By virtue of the service you are in, you are in the premium category of the society. Exploit this position for the national welfare.

I appeal to you, being vocal for local. Now, you as text administrators will know, avoidable imports are a heavy drain on our foreign exchange, to the extent of billions.

They deprive works from our youngsters, handicapping their evolution to entrepreneurship. You will be interfacing with the business people. You can enlighten them, you can imbibe in them the spirit of nationalism, what is available in the country, why we should import that, tell them the ill effects of that, merely because it can benefit someone financially to import furniture from outside, curtains from outside, candles, kites, children's toys. Once you do it, you will be bringing about affirmative change in three aspects:

  1. foreign exchange will not be drained out.
  2. Employment will be generated
  3. Entrepreneurship will take a big jump.

Similarly, friends, impress on people, it is not a good idea, surely not good economics, thoroughly not good national spirit to export raw material. We are capable of adding value. The world is coming to us, but merely because someone is sitting over a reservoir, let's say a natural resource, why should I bother, let me export it as it is, I get money. You can do it, keep that in mind.

I congratulate the National Academy of Direct Taxes for doing fine work of training young officers like you.

A great job! Congratulations to them!

I congratulate the Income Tax Department and able leadership for keeping pace, and sometimes being ahead of it, the national parameter of development. The department that people thought will never ever be friendly to people, they will never engage in hand holding, is in the front league of hand holding at the moment, transparent and accountable. Congratulations to the department.

Friends, as you embark on this new chapter of your career, may you find fulfilment and purpose in serving our beloved Bharat.

Thank you so much. Jai Hind!