Could the Indian income tax authorities be faced with an infringement of copyright by the estate of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Chancellor of England, during the reign of Henry VII? The prelate has gone down in the history books as the inventor of what subsequently came to be known as `Morton’s fork’, an ingenious formulation calculated to extract taxes from both the rich as well as the poor. Those who were conspicuously wealthy could obviously shell out, while those who seemingly lived in penury must just as obviously be craftily concealing their stashed away booty and were therefore obliged to cough up.
Now our own taxwalas appear, willingly or otherwise, to have taken a leaf out the good cardinal’s book of accounts in their laudable zeal to extract as much as possible by way of imposts, an exercise necessitated perhaps by a sarkar caught between the rock of prodigal populism and the hard place of a fraught fiscal deficit. In two unrelated cases, a person who at the time was earning a salary of Rs 7,000 a month and a daily labourer who gets Rs 300 a day, have reportedly been served, respectively, a notice to explain transactions worth Rs 138 crore made in his bank account, and a tax demand for Rs 1.05 crore. Both are patently cases of mistaken IDs, caused by faked documents and dismissible as PAN masala. But they are also reminders that, long after his demise Morton’s fiscal formula can get unsuspecting taxpayers well and truly forked.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.