Similarities Between Mahabharata and Tax System

In Mahabharata, Krishna started his campaign against Kansa with a protest against the income tax. He encouraged the dwellers of Gokul not to pay the income tax (Kar) imposed on them by Kansa. Escalation of the conflict between the people of Gokul and the state of Mathura culminated in Kansa’s death at the hands of Krishna. This episode has a striking resemblance to how the United States was founded. In 1765, the American Colonial Society rejected the authority of the British to levy taxes on the people of America.

Escalation of this conflict resulted in the defeat of the British and the independence of America in 1776. Between 1776 and 1913, when the United States grew at its fastest pace to become a superpower, the country did not have an income tax (only corporate profits were taxed). The money people earned remained in their hands to be spent on what they deemed fit.

The Karnataka High Court last week cited the Mahabharata which stated that in Ramarajya, “the state tax be such which should not prove to be a burden on the subject; the king should behave like those bees which collect honey without causing harm to the tree”.

The chief minister quoted this in his Budget speech while floating a new scheme to benefit traders in the state. According to the Karasamadhana Scheme, anticipating the rolling out of the GST, the government proposed to waive 90 per cent of penalty and interest on payment of full tax and remaining 10 per cent of penalty and interest by May 31, 2017.

This was meant to enable trade and industry “to clear their pending tax liabilities and start with a clean slate in GST”. But the scheme ran into trouble as the computing of liabilities went awry. Hundreds of businesses moved the high court, the leading case being Retail Services Ltd vs State Of Karnataka. Last week, the high court ruled in favour of the businesses and quashed the orders against them. The cases were remanded to the concerned authorities for re-computing the arrears of tax, interest and penalty, in the manner indicated by the judgment.

The Indian government needs to learn from Mahabharata, and listen to Dr. Subramanian Swamy when he says that the government should abolish the income tax. The government can perform the three core functions prescribed in Mahabharata without the burden of income tax on the people of India.

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