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आयकर विभाग की 150 वीं वर्षगाँठ !


आज 24 जुलाई 2010, आयकर विभाग अपनी 150वीं वर्षगाँठ मना रहा है। आज ही के दिन 1860 में तत्कालीन भारत सरकार के प्रथम वाईसरॉय के वित्तीय सदस्य मिस्टर जेम्स विल्सन ने ब्रिटिश साम्राज्य में प्रचलित आयकर प्रणाली को भारत में introduce किया था। इस अवसर पर विभाग द्वारा साल भर चलने वाले समारोह की ऋंखला शुरू की जा रही है जिसकी शुरूआत आज सायं पाँच बजे कोलकाता के राष्ट्रीय पुस्तकालय के सभागृह में कार्यक्रम के आयोजन से की जा रही है। इस अवसर पर विभिन्न लब्ध प्रतिष्ठित करदाताओं को सम्मानित किया जाएगा तथा विभाग के विभिन्न अधिकारियों को भी उनके उत्कृष्ट कार्य-निष्पादन हेतु सम्मानित किया जाएगा। मुख्य कार्यक्रम का आयोजन राजधानी दिल्ली में किया जाएगा जिसका शुभारंभ करेंगे माननीय वित्त मंत्री श्री प्रणव मुखर्जी। संयोग की बात यह है कि इस वर्ष मिस्टर विल्सन की 150 वीं पुण्यतिथि भी है11 अगस्त 1860 को कोलकाता में उनका निधन हो गया। कौन और क्या थे मिस्टर विल्सन ? आईए जानते हैं कोलकाता में तैनात आयकर विभाग के श्री सी. पी. भाटिया, (आई. आर. एस.) सहायक आयकर आयुक्त, के इस विस्तृत आलेख के माध्यम से।

150th Death Anniversary of Mr. James Wilson


THE RIGHT HONORABLE JAMES विल्सन



Right Hon’ble James Wilson was born on the 3rd June1805 in a small border town of Scotland called Hawick. His father Mr. William was running a textile mill. He joined a hat factory, when he was 16 but continued his studies. This business proved successful and he soon set up his business in London along with his brother. He was an admirer of Adam Smith and believed in his theory of ‘laissez-faire’. He had married Elizabeth Preston of New Castle-upon-Tyne.

He dreamt of setting up a news paper specializing in financial matters covering all aspects of trade and commerce. ‘The Economist Magazine’ was started by him on the 2nd Sep 1843
[1]. In early days of the magazine, he used to write many columns himself. Later-on, it was handled by Mr. Walter Bagehot, who had married his eldest daughter Eliza. It is one of the most widely respected financial magazines even today. Mr. James Wilson had six daughters. A daughter, Sophie, was married to Mr. William Stirling Halsey, who later joined Indian Civil Service. He also served as Private Secretary to Mr. Wilson. One of his daughters, Ms. Emile Isabel Wilson was known as Mrs. Russell Barrington after her marriage. Mr. Wilson had other daughters named Julia, Joe and Matilda[2].

He was elected to British Parliament in 1847
[3] from Westbury and was nominated for the post of Joint Secretary to the Board of Control for India, looking after Indian financial affairs from London. He could foresee the need for a new bank for International Business for the growing business needs. He set up the ‘Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China’ on the 9th October 1852. This venture grew up and later merged with ‘The Standard Bank of British South Africa’. Later-on it was named the Standard Chartered Bank, which has a sound global business presence even today.

In early 1859, Lord Stanley, the first secretary of State for India, recommended to appoint a financier from England to fill the vacancy caused by appointment of Sir Barnes Peacock, the Legal Member as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at Kolkata. Lord Palmerston, the British Prime Minister in 1859 had put a great faith in him and offered him the post of Finance Member to the Viceroy of India Council, akin to the post of Chancellor of Indian Exchequer. After the great mutiny, finances in India were in total chaos. The treasury was nearly empty and cost of governance was very high. It was perceived by some to be situation more dangerous than the mutiny itself.

Mr. Wilson took up the challenge and set sails for India 20/10/1859 for India. He arrived on 28/11/1859. A letter dated 22/11/1859 written by Lord Canning to him suggests that he may fix his residence in any of the government accommodations at the Park, Barrackpore, Kolkata
[4]. However, the official papers disclose that he was staying at 9, Middleton Street, Kolkata[5]. Here a new building has come up called, Middleton Mansion, having numbers 9 & 9/1. Mr. James Wilson took over his seat as the Finance Member of the Governor General in Council on 3/12/1859. He introduced a Bill on 18/2/1860 in the Indian Legislature, aimed at amending the tariff laws. Mr. James Wilson’s financial statements of 1860 marked the commencement of a new chapter in the financial history of the country. He introduced the system of budget, paper currency and was best known for introduction of Income Tax in India.

At the time of presenting his budget, Mr. Wilson delivered a forceful speech in the Indian Legislature
[6]. He observed that the suppression of the mutiny had entailed a great expenditure and had resulted in large public debt. He surveyed the prevailing economic condition of India and outlined the steps he desired to take to put it in order. He proposed two new taxes- one was called the ‘Licence tax’ – to be imposed on trade and commerce and the other was imposition of ‘Income tax, which was to be imposed on people in general irrespective of their nature of work. In his opinion, the two supplemented each other and targeted different classes of people. Income tax was supposed to be levied upon annual income exceeding Rs. 200 annually. He defended such a low basic limit observing that it will ensure greater justice[7]. He called upon people to contribute for the cost of governance. The tax proposed was a progressive one, the rich supposed to pay more.

He also introduced better system of accounting for the tax collected. A separate a/c was to be kept for one percent duty. The tax so collected was to be utilized by the Provincial Govt. for construction of roads, canals and other public utilities. Proper documentation ensured that such statistics was to be utilized by successive governments for determining the proper course of actions and to study whether such steps were yielding results or not. Provincial governments were authorized to notify and exempt the properties utilized for religious and charitable purposes. He had to face opposition from many quarters, particularly from the European community. As traders, they were likely to be affected. So far they were enjoying special privileges. However, he termed his measures as just, equitable and based upon intelligent principles.

At that time several members of the Council expressed hope that imposition of Income tax will not be a permanent measure and it would be taken resort to only in emergency. They believed that it will be given up as soon as the situation improved.

The Income Tax Bill was passed on 24/7/1860. Mr. Wilson expressed his satisfaction that such a large Bill was passed without much change in its basic form. It received the assent of the Governor General in Council on the same day. It was to be imposed for five years.

The Bill was again partly amended due to some deficiencies pointed out. It came into force in the month of September 1860. This session was sponsored by Sir Bartle Frere, in the absence of Mr. James Wilson. It was numbered as the Act XXXIX of 1860. However, some taxes were already collected in some parts of the country, particularly in Oudh Province owing to the financial crunch faced by the Government. The government had to issue an order to legalize the collections already made.

The yield of tax was rather small in the very first year. Mr. Charles Canning was the viceroy during that period. Other important works during this period was, setting up of a university each in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, passing of the Indian Penal Code 1860, Indian Councils Act 1861 and Indian Police Act 1861, creation of Indian Police Service, reorganization of the Customs Department and setting up of the Archeological Survey of India.


[1] www.suite101.com
[2] Life of Walter Bagehot- Mrs. Russell Barrington-1914
[3] wikipedia-James Wilson.
[4] Life of Walter Bagehot- Mrs. Russell Barrington-1914
[5] The Calcutta Gazette-1860
[6] Proceedings of the Legislative Council of India-1860
[7] The History of Taxation in India- P Banerjea-1930

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