Shri. N. M. Ranka, Senior Advocate, has enumerated in a succinct manner the qualities that professionals need to develop in order to be successful in the practice of taxation law
Since times immemorial profession of law, medicine and divinity have been recognised as noble professions. Profession of accountancy have been added with industrialisation, globalisation and trade and commerce. With socialistic pattern of society, levy of tax, duty, cess, fee etc. became life and blood, rather a necessity and no Government can function smoothly without national tax policy. Taxation became a power of political superior.
After independence many more tax legislations became operative, to meet with cost of governance, defence, internal security and social welfare; to provide water, food, cloth, housing, electricity and basic necessities of life. Service Tax has been introduced and is expanding its wings each year. It became necessary to collect, to meet with cost of establishment, salaries, interests, payment of debts and to bear with scams, scandals, wasteful lavish expenditure and unaccountability, negligence and arrogance at all levels. There have been rat race with the Union and the States, to invent new innovative tax legislations. Goods and Service Tax legislation is in making with enormous powers and discretions, the corrupt and the inefficient tax authorities, instead of functioning as regulators, became revenue collectors for exchequer as well as personal gains. The greedy tax payers were prompted and a large number became evaders. Culture to pay due taxes eliminated.
Tax and Corporate laws are highly complex, complicated and are flooded with frequent amendments of Act and Rules and plethora of decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, High Courts and Tribunals and instructions, directions and circulars of the competent authorities. With unprecedented expansion of tax net, a tax payer is amazed and unused. He has to represent before large number of authorities. Records are in a mess. Even PAN numbers are not issued on time. Refunds are abnormally delayed and not automatic. Rectifications and appeal effects have to be reminded again and again, with no result. Staff for administrative work is in plenty, but very little number to assist an assessing officer. The ‘Great Income-tax Officer’ cannot frame assessment independently and his powers have been substantially curtailed. There is no accountability. Transparency is absent. Work culture is no more. Punctuality and discipline have diminished. High pitched assessments and harassment at all levels have increased. It caused unprecedented increase in the number of tax advocates, chartered accountants, tax practitioners, return prepares over years, to assist and guide the tax payers and to make them to comply with the legislative requirements and demands of the errant tax administrators.
The Tax laws are complicated, complex, highly technical and beyond understanding of a commoner. Interpretation of tax laws is very much painful and difficult. Lately, there has developed a tendency to amend tax laws frequently, on a slight provocation as to misuse by ignorable few and retrospectively. It is not a healthy sign. It is immoral and unethical. It does not very much affect the national exchequer but puts a greater injury to a citizen of this great democracy. It shakes faith of the tax payers in tax laws and prompt them to resort to unethical practices.
It is highly desirable to change our mindset. Electronic typewriters, E-mail, FAX, fast communication gadgets, Computers, CD ROM, Whatsapp, mobile and other facilities, to save time space and energy as also to be accurate, deserves to be availed off. One shall have to change the pattern of functioning individually to a group of persons, having expertise in different fields and to function under one roof like a departmental store. To stand with competition one shall have to keep pace with fast emerging changes. Need of the hour is to change the old, outdated and obsolete way of practice. However, I am of the definite view that “Machine” is not substitute to “Man” and “Human Mind” is superb and not “Computer”. New emerging technology are to add and assist but not to replace an human being. “Man makes machines and not machines make a man”. Ultimate aim of life should be not to make oneself as maintain machine and run in rat race with stress and turmoil and without mental peace and satisfaction of life. One should keep fine a balance between knowledge, vision, character and action.
The tax professional has a tripartite relation; one with his colleague, another with the tax administration and the third with the client. The duties are unique. Tax Professionals are every where deemed essential to protect the public interest and interest of the tax payer in an orderly society. The tax professionals participation is ordinarily an assurance that the tax payer shall not be required to pay a single rupee more or a single rupee less than due to the exchequer. A tax professional is an officer, just as an Advocate is an officer of the court. He is master of an expertise, but more than that accountable to the tax administration and governed by a high ethic. The success of the tax assessments depend upon the services of the tax profession. He is a bridge between the tax payer and the tax authorities.
Tax profession is not a craft but a calling, a profession wherein devotion to duty constitutes the hall mark. Sincerity of performance and the earnestness of endeavour are the two wings that will bare aloft the tax professionals to the tower of success. Given these virtues other qualifications will follow on their own. A strong united and independent bar ready to see that due taxes alone are paid, will have a very sobering effect on the tax administration. A principled tax professional with sterling character will be a great check on the tax administration as well as tax payers. The tax profession should have a sense of sacrifice and sense of service. Tax consultants are professionals and not businessmen. To serve should be the object.
A tax professional should have the professional capacity, proper professional training, good knowledge of the tax laws and the procedure. He should maintain a very good library and should devote at least two to three hours a day in the study. The profession should get rid of corrupt and corrupting elements prevailing in abundance. The members must unite to fight this evil. Unity is strength. A sense of sacrifice and sense of service would be required to tackle this problem. Code of conduct and a code of ethic should be adopted and strictly enforced.
A tax professional should be very punctual, methodical and systematic. He should represent his client’s case to the best of his ability. No effort should be spared in properly arming oneself on the questions of law and fact. Deep study of more than 100 laws is the necessity as noticed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Submission of all relevant evidence at proper time and proper stage would help the tax payer. Detailed written submissions and explanations should be furnished with sufficient evidence, direct as well as circumstantial, before the assessing authority itself. The return should accompany all the required papers, documents and accompaniments. Grounds of appeal should be detailed and should accompany Statement of facts. As far as possible written submissions should be submitted before the appellate authorities along with detailed Paper Book as per rules. While selecting judicial citations, one should be very choosy and selective. Only relevant case laws matching with facts be cited. One should adhere to the dress code. It is highly desirable that a tax consultant functions deligently, with caution and care and discharges his duties and obligations without negligence.
The tax payer need a helping hand from the tax profession. No effort should be made or allowed to be made by which a tax payer is deprived of his rights, statutory as well as constitutional and is put to sufferance, financial as well as mental. Tendency to retain the records and not to return need to be eschewed. No right vests to retain the records even if fees remains as outstanding. Any communication between the client and the counsel is secret and it is the duty of the tax profession not to divulge or disclose or discuss without permission of the tax payer. Loose talks deserve to be avoided. Gossips impermissible. Utmost care and caution is essential in proper discharge of duty and trust, else may amount to misconduct.
Rules provide that an Advocate/Chartered Accountant shall not enter appearance in any case in which there is already an Advocate/Chartered Accountant on record except with his consent. It is highly, desirable to seek “No Objection Certificate” from previous Tax Consultant before putting appearance. It is healthy practice and need to be adhered to. Files and records deserve to be returned after discharge of duty and obligation. Vakalatnamah and power of attorney duly stamped must be filed before the appearance. Fees to commemorate with the time and energy involved. No guarantee briefs or fees looking to the stakes involved. There is sufficient for “needs” but not for “greed”.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Speedy disposal of case is the need of the hour. Efforts need be made for early disposal. Adjournments deserve to be avoided. Adjournment should be the last resort. Application in advance to be filed. On the date responsible person to attend. Due regard to be paid to the officers and the members. Greatest advantage in tax profession is that the clientele is constant, continuous, permanent and a tax professional is considered as a friend, philosopher, guide and member of the client’s family. Social contacts are close.
It is rightly said that corruption is rampant in all fields of life and tax departments are no exception. Corruption is cancerous. There is no will to fight the menace. Nobody is born corrupt, it is the vitiated atmosphere and the system of governance which converts the “clean” into the “corrupt”. An honest person resists corruption but allurements and temptations at times prevail upon him and once corrupt, even an honest person prefers and finds it convenient to stay corrupt. The seeds of corruption are sown in the mind of the man and the cure, if any, lies in eradicating the seeds of corruption from ones mind. It is self generated. There is hue and cry for its elimination, but it is increasing day by day, affecting national image and affecting growth.
To me only solution is self introspection. “FEAR NONE, EXCEPT ONE, WHO IS ABOVE EVERYONE”. Respected Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation said “THERE IS HIGHER COURT, THAN COURT OF JUSTICE, THAT IS THE COURT OF CONSCIENCE”.
Peace requires liberty. Liberty demands a self-disciplined people of strong moral fibre adhering to the highest values of ethics and reverence for life. The first step is to vow to do no harm. There is need to reiterate Gandhian values. We must translate his ideals into real life. Let us have an Inner Revolution and transform ourselves : ‘From fear to love, from greed to generosity. From selfishness to compassion; deceit to truth. From dependence to self-reliance; war to peace. From enslavement to Liberty.’
What is required is: Unity of thoughts, unity of understanding and unity of action to achieve the goal with due regard to dignity, liberty and humanity. Success is celebration. Let us realise “Professional Social Responsibility” to Serve the tax fraternity. Inculcate the humble suggestions and become a successful tax professional. Future is bright. Maintain its dignity, honour and reputation. ‘Build The Nation’ & Achieve Self-Satisfaction.
Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal