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Inset : Nirmala Sitharaman

2012-2021: Retrospective Tax Gone, But The Ghost May Remain For Some Time

The Income Tax Department lost the Vodafone case because it didn’t contest well in the Supreme Court, held the lawmakers. And to address this, the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced the retrospective tax in the Income-tax Act in 2012, though he was not happy with the decision when he understood the implications. (Vodafone was asked to pay $3.79 billion, including $2 billion in tax, interest and penalties – a claim called incorrect by an international arbitration tribunal). The retrospective tax is gone, but its ghost may remain. Seasoned observers say the decision to do away with the controversial tax provision is purely a political one. The Central Board of Direct Taxes officials maintain that income arising out of the sale of assets on Indian soil must be taxed in India, and they will keep doing so. Now that the I-T provision is gone, it would be interesting to see how the existing cases are handled by the taxmen. The Income-tax Act is a powerful piece of legislation that gives the tax department immense powers to deal with any case in the way it wants, if it is decided at the top level of the Board. The companies involved in the retrospective tax cases may feel happy that the provision has been quashed, but they should wait for some more time before it turns out to be a final respite.


Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.