Tax-to-GDP Ratio

Tax-to-GDP Ratio

GS 3: Economy


India's tax landscape is poised for significant growth in the upcoming fiscal year, with the tax-to-GDP ratio expected to soar to a historic high of 11.7%.

Revenue Secretary  underscores the pivotal role of direct taxes in driving this surge and underscores the government's commitment to streamlining the tax regime for enhanced efficiency and reduced disputes.

Tax to GDP Ratio


  • The Tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio stands as a pivotal metric in assessing a country's fiscal health and economic management. 
  • The tax-to-GDP ratio measures a nation's tax revenue relative to the size of its economy, providing insight into potential taxation levels and overall tax policy direction.
  • It provides insights into the government's revenue generation capacity, expenditure sustainability, and overall financial resilience.
  • Measurement Tool: The Tax to GDP ratio serves as a yardstick to gauge the proportion of tax revenue relative to the total economic output of a nation, as represented by its GDP.
  • Indicator of Fiscal Health: A higher Tax to GDP ratio suggests a more robust fiscal position, indicating that the government can effectively harness economic resources to finance its operations and public expenditures.
  • Financial Stability Marker: The ratio offers valuable insights into the government's financial stability and its ability to meet expenditure obligations without resorting to excessive borrowing or deficit financing.

Key Insights

  • Government Revenue Generation: A higher Tax to GDP ratio underscores the government's proficiency in mobilizing revenue from various sources, including income tax, corporate tax, sales tax, and other levies.
  • Economic Development Indicator: The ratio reflects the level of economic development and income distribution within a country. Higher ratios are often associated with more developed economies with robust tax systems.
  • Fiscal Sustainability: A sustained increase in the Tax to GDP ratio signifies a reduction in reliance on external borrowing and debt financing, thereby enhancing the country's fiscal sustainability and reducing vulnerability to economic shocks.
  • Public Service Provision: A well-maintained Tax to GDP ratio enables governments to adequately fund essential public services, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure development, and social welfare programs, thereby fostering societal well-being and economic progress.

Policy Implications

  • Optimal Taxation Policies: Governments may implement tax reforms and policies aimed at optimizing revenue collection while ensuring fairness and efficiency in the tax system.
  • Fiscal Discipline Measures: Maintaining a healthy Tax to GDP ratio requires prudent fiscal management, including controlling expenditure growth, curbing tax evasion and avoidance, and fostering economic growth to expand the tax base.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: Higher tax revenues, facilitated by an elevated Tax to GDP ratio, enable governments to invest in critical infrastructure projects, which, in turn, stimulate economic growth and enhance competitiveness.

Why 'Tax-to-GDP' Ratio Matters?

  • Measurement of Fiscal Health: The tax-to-GDP ratio serves as a crucial indicator of a nation's fiscal health, measuring tax revenue relative to the size of its economy.
  • Resource Allocation: It aids in evaluating how effectively a government allocates economic resources through taxation, when considered alongside other metrics.
  • Development Indicators: Developed nations generally exhibit higher tax-to-GDP ratios, indicating greater fiscal capacity to invest in infrastructure, healthcare, education, and other development initiatives.
  • World Bank's Benchmark: Tax revenues exceeding 15% of GDP, as endorsed by the World Bank, are pivotal for fostering economic growth and alleviating poverty.

Forecasted Rise in Tax-to-GDP Ratio

  • Anticipated Surge: The tax-to-GDP ratio in India is forecasted to climb to 11.7% in the fiscal year 2024-25, marking a steady increase from 11.6% in the previous year and 11.2% in 2022-23.
  • Dominance of Direct Taxes: The upsurge in the tax ratio is primarily attributed to the growth of direct taxes, renowned for their equitable distribution.

Factors Driving Growth

 Direct Tax Collection

  • Optimistic Outlook: Revenue Secretary anticipates a surge in the adoption of the new tax regime, characterized by simplified tax structures and a higher tax-free income threshold.
  • Personal Income Tax Growth: Personal income tax collections have witnessed a substantial 28% growth, projected to moderate to 20%-22% by the fiscal year-end.

 Rationalizing GST Rates

  • Ongoing Review: A Group of Ministers (GoM) appointed by the GST Council is actively reviewing the rate structure, with the aim of rationalizing GST rates on various items.
  • Regular Council Meetings: The GST Council is expected to convene regularly to address rate rationalization, although no fixed date has been announced yet.

Projected Revenue Growth

  • Modest Projections: Despite buoyant revenue growth of 1.4% this year, projections for the following fiscal year aim for a 1.1% buoyancy, aligning with an anticipated nominal GDP growth of 10.5%.
  • Corporate Tax Dynamics: The deadline for availing the reduced corporate tax rate ends in March 2023, with a significant proportion of companies already benefitting from it.
  • Enforcement Measures: The Department of Revenue focuses on tax administration, while the Enforcement Directorate intervenes in cases related to money laundering, ensuring comprehensive enforcement mechanisms.

Reasons for Low Tax to GDP Ratio in India

  • Presence of Informal Sector: The substantial size of India's informal/unorganized sector poses challenges for tax collection, leading to greater tax evasion and reduced revenue inflows.
  • Dominance of Agriculture Sector: With a significant portion of the population engaged in agriculture, which is often exempt from taxation, a large segment of the economy remains outside the tax net.
  • Tax Disputes and Low Recovery: High numbers of tax disputes coupled with low rates of tax arrears recovery undermine the effectiveness of tax collection efforts, contributing to a lower tax to GDP ratio.
  • Imbalance in Direct-Indirect Tax Ratio: India exhibits a skewed ratio of direct to indirect taxes, with a larger proportion of revenue derived from indirect taxes. This imbalance contrasts with OECD economies and impacts overall revenue generation.
  • Generous Government Policies: The presence of numerous tax exemptions and incentives, particularly favoring the richer private sector, diminishes tax revenues and erodes the tax base.
  • Low Per Capita Income and High Poverty: India's low per capita income and widespread poverty limit the tax base, as a significant portion of the population falls below taxable income thresholds.

Implications of Low Tax to GDP Ratio

  • Limited Government Spending: Decreased tax revenues constrain the government's capacity to invest in crucial areas such as national security, welfare programs, and infrastructure development.
  • Persistent Fiscal Deficit: The reliance on borrowing to compensate for low tax revenues results in persistent fiscal deficits, perpetuating a deficit bias in fiscal policy.
  • Political Incentives for Borrowing: Political pressures to appease voters through spending rather than implementing effective tax reforms further exacerbate fiscal imbalances and hinder economic growth.
  • Unchecked Tax Evasion: Widespread tax evasion undermines economic growth and places a disproportionate burden on high-productivity sectors, stifling overall development.
  • Impact on Welfare Schemes: Reduced tax collections limit the government's ability to fund welfare schemes and social programs, exacerbating socio-economic disparities.
  • Dependence on Regressive Taxes: Increased reliance on indirect taxes, which tend to be regressive, exacerbates income inequality and places a heavier burden on lower-income segments of society.
  • Social Inequality and Economic Disparities: The asymmetric distribution of economic resources perpetuates social inequality, contributing to disparities in access to opportunities and services.

Various Measures to Increase the Tax to GDP Ratio

  • Widening Individual Taxpayer Base: Implement policies to expand the individual taxpayer base by targeting tax evasion and bringing more taxpayers into the formal tax net through improved compliance measures and outreach programs.
  • Organizational Restructuring: Consider the merger of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) as recommended by the Tax Administration Reform Commission (TARC) to streamline tax administration and enhance efficiency.
  • Reassessment of Exemptions: Reassess and rationalize tax exemptions provided under various provisions, such as transfer pricing and base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), to prevent misuse and ensure fair taxation while minimizing revenue leakages.
  • Effective Dispute Settlement Mechanisms: Strengthen dispute resolution mechanisms to expedite the resolution of tax disputes, thereby reducing litigation and enhancing taxpayer confidence in the tax system.
  • Cultural Change and Awareness: Foster a culture of tax compliance and civic responsibility by educating citizens about the importance of paying taxes for nation-building and development. Instill a sense of national pride and duty towards contributing to the country's progress through tax compliance.

Reasons for Increase in India’s Tax-to-GDP Ratio

  • Equitable Direct Taxes: The shift towards more equitable direct taxes has contributed to the rise, with direct taxes expected to increase from 6.1% of GDP to 6.6% and 6.7% in subsequent years, aligning with economic growth.
  • Government's Simplification Efforts: Active efforts by the government to simplify and rationalize the tax regime have reduced disputes and intrusive enforcement methods, fostering compliance and revenue growth.
  • Reduction in Corporate and Personal Income Taxes: Recent reductions in corporate and personal income taxes aim to incentivize taxpayers to opt for the new tax regime, boosting compliance and widening the tax base.
  • Economic Growth and Per Capita Income: Economic growth and rising per capita income are expected to drive tax revenue growth, following global trends where developing economies experience increased tax-to-GDP ratios alongside economic development.

Tax Buoyancy


  • Tax buoyancy stands as a pivotal measure, reflecting the responsiveness of tax revenue to fluctuations in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or national income.
  •  It unveils how tax revenue adjusts to changes in the overall economic activity, offering crucial insights into economic health and the efficiency of tax systems.
  • Tax buoyancy serves as a barometer of the economy's vitality, gauging the degree to which tax revenue flexes with shifts in GDP. A high buoyancy level is favorable, allowing revenue growth without increasing tax rates, while low or negative buoyancy may signal underlying tax system weaknesses requiring attention.

Indicator of Economic Health

  • As a dynamic indicator, tax buoyancy not only reflects the health of the economy but also the efficacy of tax policies in generating revenue. 
  • It acts as a vital tool for policymakers to evaluate the impact of economic measures on revenue generation.

Calculation and Methodology

  • Computed as the percentage change in tax revenue relative to the percentage change in GDP, tax buoyancy offers a quantitative assessment of revenue response to economic shifts.

Policy Implications and Forecasting

  • Governments utilize tax buoyancy to forecast revenue and shape tax policies conducive to economic growth. 
  • Understanding the buoyancy levels aids in designing policies that maintain revenue stability amidst economic fluctuations.

International Benchmarking

  • Tax buoyancy facilitates cross-country comparisons of tax systems and fiscal performance. 
  • By assessing buoyancy levels across different nations, policymakers gain valuable insights into best practices and potential areas for improvement.

Challenges Impacting Tax Buoyancy

  • Low Base Effect: The dip in tax buoyancy in 2022-23 can be attributed to a diminishing low base effect, which led to a slower growth rate of taxes relative to the national income.
  • Decline in Tax Collections Growth Rate: Despite a 17.79% growth rate in tax collections, it outpaced the nominal GDP growth rate of 15.11%, contributing to decreased tax buoyancy.
  • Increase in Tax Base: While the number of income tax return filers increased, a significant portion of taxpayers remains unaccounted for, possibly affecting tax buoyancy despite a broader tax base.


India's tax-to-GDP ratio is poised to reach a historic high, reflecting the government's efforts to bolster revenue generation through direct taxes and streamline tax policies. This surge underscores the nation's improving fiscal health and resilience amidst economic fluctuations. However, challenges such as the dominance of the informal sector, low tax base, and disparities in tax collections growth rate persist, impacting tax buoyancy. Addressing these challenges necessitates a multi-pronged approach, including widening the taxpayer base, reassessing tax exemptions, and strengthening dispute resolution mechanisms. By fostering tax compliance, enhancing transparency, and promoting economic growth, India can strive towards achieving a sustainable and equitable tax regime, laying the groundwork for long-term fiscal stability and inclusive development.

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