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Poor ‘Tomb Raiders’
Salaries of Income Tax Officers and Judges Should be Decided by an Independent Panel and should be made at par with Other Nations
Issue Date - 26/05/2011
Imagine the moral dilemma a person has to go through who is in-charge of assets worth many millions and earns just a few thousands per month. This is a nightmare come true for personnel in the income tax department. Income tax officials in India are those government officials whose job profile allows them to access and scrutinise cash and related assets that are to the tune of millions. In the same light, there have been so many cases of these IT officials accepting bribes to either reduce tax fines or allow offenders to go scot-free!

The incentive to take bribe becomes much greater for our tax officials since their salaries are much lower than those of their counterparts in the rest of the world. ‘Clients’ can offer them bribes that can go up to hundred times their monthly take away salary. Talking in numbers, Indian IT officers at the highest level (at CCIT/DGIT level) draw around Rs.24,500 per month. An Income Tax officer normally manages to settle for Rs.12,000 and an Income Tax inspector merely gets a salary of Rs.10,500 per month. Contrast this with Japan where a tax compliance officer receives $31,000 a month. Similarly, a tax officer in US gets $48,100 (according to Bureau of Labour Statistics 2010-2011), in UK he/she gets £30,000 ($47,639) and a Singaporean tax officer draws $30,600-$39,720 (according to Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore). Even at PPP levels, these figures are more than for Indians.

The same goes for judges in India. A recent bill passed by the Parliament had increased the salary of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from Rs.33,000 to Rs.1 lakh month (equivalent to $2200), while for apex court judges, the salary has been increased to Rs.90,000 (equivalent to $2000) per month. However, a US district judge gets nothing less than $174,000 (as of 2009). The current salary for the Chief Justice in US is $18,625 per month, while the Associate Justices each make $17,825 per month. On an average, an American counterpart earns 8-9 times what an India judge earns!

In UK, a judge earns £239,845 ($380865). UK spends around €27.4 million ($40.6 million) each year as judges’ salaries. Judges of the Supreme Court earn €257,872 ($382012) each every year. Interestingly, salaries paid to Irish judges are the second highest in the world. A brief glance through High Court judge salaries in France and Germany shows how they earn around $200,000 and $108,000 respectively annually.

India’s judicial pay scale is determined by Pay Commission recommendations, which is done periodically. But the July 2009 National Judicial Pay Commission suggestions were implemented by only Delhi, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, the pay scale revisions of any government employees including income tax officers are based on Pay Commission recommendations approved by the government. In the US, regarding judicial pay adjustment, the pay scale rise is recommended by the Chief Justice. For civilian employees (that includes Internal Revenue Service, IRS, employees) pay scale adjustment, the executive order has to come from the President and it must be ratified by the Congress. A similar pattern is followed in UK and Canada.

In the case of India, where it’s very easy to manipulate laws and dodge the entire system by bribing officials at various cadres, an independent commission to decide the salaries of key government officials in judiciary as well as the IT department is a must. If corruption and high level crimes (by the influential people of society) have to be tackled at the roots, it is imperative that officials in the judiciary and the Income Tax department are at least paid the sky. It’s well said, if you throw peanuts, all you’ll get are...


Sray Agarwal           

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