Women taxpayers in the country were pleasantly surprised to find themselves included in the budget speech today, and not in the way they had expected. While presenting the Union Budget for the year 2022, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a point to quash certain stereotypes and acknowledge the fact that women form a considerable chunk of the country’s tax-paying/ IT return filing population. It felt refreshing to hear Sitharaman use pronouns “she” and “her” while talking about the proposal to revise guidelines to file tax returns.
Sitharaman’s 2022 budget had many offerings for women. Recognising the importance of Nari Shakti the finance minister announced the government’s plan to revamp three of the Ministry of Women and Child Development schemes- Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya and Poshan 2.0. The minister also revealed that over two lakh anganwadis across the country will be upgraded to have better infrastructure and audio-visual aids. Read more on that here.
Apart from announcing gender-specific schemes, Sitharaman ensured that women of the country felt involved in the budget beyond issues that specifically concerned them. While talking about the introduction of new updated return, she explained that some taxpayers realise later that they may have committed omissions or mistakes in correctly estimating their income. To give them an opportunity to correct such errors she proposed a new provision that would permit taxpayers to file an updated return on payment of additional tax, which could be filed within two years from the end of the relevant assessment year.
It is while talking about this update in the process of filing returns, that Sitharaman said, “With this proposal now there will be a trust repost in the taxpayers that will enable the assessee herself to declare the income that she may have missed out earlier while filing her returns.”
Sitharaman’s inclusive speech caught the attention of Edelweiss Asset CEO Radhika Gupta, who wrote on Twitter, “Glad to see, that “SHE” is the one filing income tax!” NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh wrote in the comment section that she “loved it”.
In India, tax and return filing is usually seen as a male domain. Most Indian households still have men as their primary earners, while women largely hold on to part-time jobs or run small businesses. There are also women who hold full-time jobs or are homemakers- the spectrum of income or lack of it is wide and varying for women. However, numerous women religiously file their returns, no matter how inconsequential they might seem to big earners, considering it as a civic duty. Most women dread the job of filing their returns, shoving the task to the male members of the household, because they have always been told that women are bad with finances, thus better leave the task of managing them to the opposite gender.
With her speech Sitharaman made women feel included in the process, and also told them that they are as important as a male tax payer. They deserve to be addressed and thus it was important to point out that “she” too pays her tax, files her returns and takes charge of the money.
One hopes that Sitharaman’s speech will encourage more and more women to discuss money matters not just among themselves but with the other gender too.
Views expressed are the author’s own.