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OECD Economic Surveys: India 2017

image of OECD Economic Surveys: India 2017

India is the fastest-growing G20 economy, thanks to ambitious structural reforms and low commodity prices. Deregulation and improvement in the ease of doing business have boosted foreign investment. However, investment is still held back by the relatively high corporate income tax rates, slow land acquisition processes, stringent regulations, weak corporate balance sheets, high non-performing loans and infrastructure bottlenecks. Quality job creation has been low, due to complex labour laws. A comprehensive tax reform would promote inclusive growth: implementation of the Goods and Services Tax would support competitiveness, investment and economic growth as will reducing the corporate income tax rate and broadening the base. Property and personal income taxes could be reformed to raise more revenue, promote social justice and empower sub-national governments. Ensuring clarity and certainty in tax legislation and employing more skilled tax officers would strengthen the tax administration. Spatial disparities in living standards are large. India is reforming relations across levels of government to empower the states and make policies more responsive to local conditions. Some states have taken the lead in improving the ease of doing business and now enjoy higher productivity and income. In rural areas, poverty rates are high and access to core public services is often poor. Farm productivity is low owing to small and fragmented land holdings, poor input management, and inefficient market conditions. In urban areas, agglomeration benefits are quickly reduced by congestion costs, in particular air pollution and long commuting time.

SPECIAL FEATURES: TAX REFORM; REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

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Making income and property taxes more growth-friendly and redistributive

Income and property tax reforms are crucial to promoting inclusive growth. The tax-to-GDP ratio is low, partly reflecting the relatively low income level and the high degree of informality. However, it also reflects narrow tax bases, due to a wide array of tax incentives, which distort the allocation of resources. The redistributive effect of the tax system is limited. Tax reforms should i) raise more revenue to finance much needed social and physical infrastructure while keeping public debt under control; ii) reduce inequality by increasing the redistributive effect of taxation; iii) promote productivity by reducing distortions in the allocation of resources which emanate from the corporate income tax; iv) boost job creation by eliminating the bias against labour-intensive activities; v) promote confidence, and thus investment, by improving clarity and certainty in tax rules and their implementation and vi) reinforce the ability of states and municipalities to provide key public infrastructure and services. This chapter presents the main characteristics of the tax system as well as the rationale and options for reform.

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