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Breaking the glass ceiling in India's tax administration

Monday August 06, 2012 03:41:18 PM, Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, IANS

New Delhi: Taxman may not be a proper term to use any more, given the gender of the current chairs of the direct and indirect tax administrations: It is women who now oversee how the government fills its coffers - a target of $215 billion this fiscal.

In India, women chief executives in the banking industry is no big deal. A recent survey revealed that nine of the top 10 listed banking companies in India had at least one women board member and three had women as chief executives.

North Block, which houses the finance ministry, was very different where the first woman to be named finance secretary was Sushma Nath in 2011. But the glass ceiling has been broken!

The acting chairperson of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) is now a woman officer of the 1976 batch of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Praveen Mahajan. She is also the first from her gender in that post.

In fact, what comes as an even bigger surprise is all her colleagues on the board may soon be women. Mahajan took charge Aug 1 after Satish Kumar Goel retired.

The story in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is no different. Poonam Kishore Saxena has been given additional charge of chairperson of this body following the retirement of Laxman Das last month.

A 1974-batch officer of the Indian Revenue Service, Saxena is set to be formally appointed chief of CBDT soon as her name has already been forwarded to the cabinet, sources in the finance ministry said.

Saxena is also the fourth woman officer to be appointed CBDT chief. The first chair was was Shobha Majumdar during 2004-05. The other two were M.M. Kherawala in 2006 and Indira Bhargawa 2007.

But a majority of members in the CBDT will still be men.

"Women are doing very well in finance because they can take more balanced views," said Neeru Ahuja, partner, Deloitte Haskins and Sells.

The rising number of woman officials in tax administration will send a positive signal and help achieve the tax collection targets easily, Ahuja told IANS, adding: "Women are more sincere and hard working. This should help in tax collections."

The women members of the CBEC are Sheila Sangwan, responsible for service tax, Sreela Ghosh, handling excise and J.M. Shanti Sundharam, responsible for legal affairs.

Currently, the sole male member of the CBEC, M.S. Badhan, is set to retire at the end of this calender year.

There are currently two vacant positions in the CBEC, which is responsible for collecting of indirect taxes. Both these positions are likely to be filled by women as all the names under consideration are of female officers, sources said.

The board, which is a part of the Department of Revenue in the finance ministry, also supervises key economic probe agencies, such as the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.

The CBDT is also a part of the revenue department in the finance ministry and is responsible for collecting and overseeing direct taxes. The direct tax collection target for this fiscal is Rs.5.7 lakh crore and for indirect taxes it is Rs.5 lakh crore.



(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at gyanendra.k@ians.in)



 


 


 

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