Statutory Warning : This piece is not a sober, reasoned, point of view. It is an unadulterated rant. It may be highly biased and devoid of much logical argument. But , what the hell, once in a while a blogger deserves a good yell. So here goes
I wish the Indian Space Agency had hit upon the idea of sending somebody with a one way ticket in the recently launched Mars expedition. I would have happily sponsored the ticket for Ramamritham. Especially the Ramamritham who sits in the Income Tax Department.
What has prompted this rant is the antics by Ramamritham against Nokia. He has been going against Nokia disallowing their royalty payments as an expense and demanding tax on them. When the company refused, he went to court and has frozen their main factory in Sriperumbudur. By this act, he is jeopardising the sale of Nokia's telecom business to Microsoft. Succumbing to sheer blackmail, Nokia has offered to pay some Rs 2000 crores just to get Ramamritham off its back - so that it can include the Indian operations in the sale to Microsoft. This is nothing short of extortion. But Ramamritham has refused this amount too to settle the case .
This specimen has a problem with every global company that operates in India. He has a problem with their linkage with overseas operations - maybe transfer pricing., maybe structuring of M&A, maybe whatever. He has gone after Vodafone in the famous case, he is going after IBM, he is going after Nokia and no doubt he will be going against every global company that operates in India.
I am not for one moment saying that global corporations are saints. Far from it. But these sort of tax planning actions are done by all companies in all corners of the world. Remember, tax avoidance is not a crime; only tax evasion is. Every company cannot be a rogue. In true Ramamritham fashion he is going after soft targets and cares two hoots about its fall out effects on the Indian economy. No global M&A transaction is possible these days without India proving to be a massive headache or else excluded altogether. Every Indian operation now has to staff an oversize tax department to cater to Ramamritham. Only an absolute idiot will invest in India today. India is not some special divine country which is separate from the rest of the world. If Ramamritham has a problem with transfer pricing, he should go to the WTO and negotiate tax treaties with the entire world. He should also remember that the shoe can equally be on the other foot too - other governments can also screw Indian companies in their respective countries. The US equivalent of Ramamritham has to only do a fraction of what he is doing and the Indian IT industry will come to a halt.
The British government and the Finnish government, to name only two, have intervened at government levels and asked the Prime Minister to rein in Ramamritham. But Ramamritham cannot be stopped. Once he has gotten into his silly head that he must do something, not even an asteroid hit will stop him.
If Ramamritham is seriously interested in increasing tax revenues, he should at least be man enough to go after the people who do not pay any tax at all. Only 3% of the Indian population pays income tax. The rest of the 97% don't. If he has the guts, he should go after the blatant tax evaders, who number in the millions. By going against respected companies, who are tax payers, he is basically saying to the world - come to India at your peril. We would be delighted if you don't come to India at all . In Ramamritham's view of the world, it is best if there is no economic activity at all - for then his tax department will be perfect - there are no taxes to collect and hence nobody to go after.
Deliver us God, from this parasite who infests us. The only route to salvation for India is to send Ramamritham to Mars.