Gender Impacts of Revenue Collection in India

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Studies on gendersensitive budgeting have concentrated on the expenditure side of government budgets. Through a case study from India, Nirmala Banerjee explores the other side of the budget – taxes and other means of raising revenue. By highlighting the relative effects of changes in taxation policy on men and on women this study will help to raise awareness of gender among those responsible for planning the tax system, in India and elsewhere.




There have recently been a number of attempts at gender- and poverty-sensitive analyses of government budgets in India. The initial focus has been on the expenditure side of the budget because it includes many programmes that are targeted towards women and the poor. The revenue side of the budget has received a lot less attention because, at first glance, not many of the poor and especially women among them appear to be taxpayers of any significance. The only taxes that they do pay are sales taxes (also taxes on imports and exports) because they buy some of the taxed commodities. The available data on consumption expenditure does not permit a gendered analysis because the information is on a household rather than individual basis, though one can do a partial class analysis. For example, given the amount spent by those below the poverty line on food and kerosene in 1987/88, the steep rise in the prices of these commodities because of cuts in government subsidies25 between 1991 and 1993/94 reduced families’ real incomes by about 20 per cent between 1987/88 and 1993/94 (Banerjee, 2004). However, there was no information about what were the class-wise demand elasticities for those items, what kind of adjustments were possible for those families and how the costs of those adjustments were distributed between different members of the families. To that extent the analysis was misleading about the final outcome.


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