India is second most complex tax jurisdiction

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Indian tax laws are perceived to be second most complex in the Asia-Pacific region, becoming even less predictable over the last three years, a Deloitte survey has said.

India ranks only after China in having most complex jurisdiction for taxation and most complicated requirements of tax, the Asia Pacific Tax Complexity Survey conducted by Deloitte said.

Japan, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea trail India in the complexity index.

“In these two jurisdictions (China and India), well over half of the respondents believe complexity in the regime has increased in the last 3 years,” it said.

By ‘complexity’, it meant the perceived level of difficulty in interpreting the tax law and rules in the relevant jurisdictions.

“An overwhelming majority of over 90 per cent respondents said that they would like to see tax reform in India along with China and Indonesia. Specifically for India, the survey respondents suggest that they look forward to reform taking place in timeliness and quality of audits and adoption of BEPS recommendations,” Deloitte said.

With regard to consistency in tax policies, a majority of the respondents felt that India has become less consistent over the last three years.

Consistency refers to the perceived uniformity and transparency of enforcement of prevailing tax laws.

The report surveyed over 300 financial and tax executives on their views of the current and anticipated tax environment of 20 jurisdictions across Asia Pacific. Of the respondents, 147 had business operations in India.

While developed markets have the most consistent tax regime, in India, China and Indonesia, it has become less predictable, the survey said.

Jurisdictions like Hong Kong and Japan offer stability that investors seek whereas China and India offer promise against a more challenging social, economic and tax environment.

“Companies can see that the largest developing economies — China, India and Indonesia — still have much progress to make before they can meet investors’ expectation in this regard,” the survey noted.

There is a general satisfaction with tax environments in the more developed jurisdictions while significant opportunities exist for emerging economies to improve their predictability and consistency of their tax environments,” it added.

Many respondents felt reforms were needed in India around administration of tax, like training for tax officers to improve understanding of taxpayers.

It said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will reduce complexity in tax environment by eliminating multiple taxes while improving trade and commerce.

In addition to GST, introduction of GAAR from April 2017 and adoption of BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) actions will increase complexity over next 2—3 years in the field of M&A tax and indirect tax in particular, it said.

As regards tax audits, the report said in larger jurisdictions like China, India, Australia and Japan, most feel that tax audits conducted by authorities are rigorous and many are witnessing high frequency of such audits.

“India, at 45 per cent, is the jurisdiction known to have the most rigorous tax audits,” the survey said.

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