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Abstract

The paper traces the development and structure of tax revenues in India since independence. An understanding of the background to India's current severe fiscal problems is crucial to the design of policy to overcome them. At an aggregate level to surges in deficits and debts took place in the 1950s and 1980s. These were decades both of faster growth and or more ambitious economic policies, although the direction of the policies was rather different in the two decades. The structure of taxation appears to have been influenced both by centre-state allocations and relations and by development policy. India has seen a number of valuable reports by government commissions on taxation, and the major ones are reviewed. The most recent report, by the Chelliah Committee, has been of particular comprehensiveness and value. Prominent amongst all the reports has been a recognition of the absence of progress in collecting the personal income tax. The paper concludes by specifying a number of topics for further research, emphasising political economy, income distribution, centre-state relations and allocations, and the integration of tax policy with changing views of the role of the state and towards trade and industrial policy.

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