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India rolls out AI and e-government to increase taxpayer numbers beyond current miserable 15 million

‘Honoring the honest’ is the catchphrase for massive new online scheme

India has announced a new technology-powered tax collection scheme that it hopes will increase its revenue.

The nation of 1.3bn currently has only around 15 million regular and active taxpayers. One reason for that low rate of compliance is widespread suspicion of corruption among Indian tax officials, who are unavoidable because taxes are filed in person.

Prime minister Narendra Modi launched the scheme yesterday using the catchphrase “Honoring the honest”, a reference to the introduction of “faceless” processing that allows electronic lodgement and online access to documents in place of the current system that requires a visit to the nation’s Internal Taxation Department (somewhat confusingly referred to as ‘The IT Department’).

The scheme also makes a big change to the current system of all tax matters being processed locally. Now AI and big data will be deployed in unspecified ways to assign an out-of-town tax official, with the implication that remote processing will remove any bias (and possible opportunity for profit) that may cross the mind of local bureaucrats.

Even appeals against tax decisions can now be handled in a “faceless” fashion.

The goal of the scheme is simple: collect more tax from more people. Modi made unashamedly patriotism-soaked appeals to Indians to adopt the new system as their contribution to the nation's growth. ®

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