What Is Tax Evasion, Tax Avoidance, And Tax Planning

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Mar 29, 2024
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    Every government relies on taxation to generate revenue to run the country. However, there are many ways that people and companies attempt to lower their tax bills. There are three separate but connected ideas in tax management: tax planning, tax avoidance, and tax evasion. In this blog, we will explain these tax terminologies in detail. 

    Tax Evasion

    Anyone who engages in dishonest or unlawful means to avoid paying their respective taxes commits a tax evasion. It entails lowering one's tax liability by purposefully underreporting taxable income, capital gains, or profits. Typical ways by which people avoid paying taxes are:

    • Not itemising all sources of income or recording a lower income in financial records.
    • Avoiding taxes by concealing or storing wealth and assets overseas in offshore accounts.
    • Creating false accounts, paperwork, or invoices to claim bogus expenses or exemptions.
    • Avoiding import charges and customs taxes by smuggling products.
    • Including fabricated information or claims in a tax return. 

    Tax evasion is a criminal offence under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Anyone caught faces severe penalties, including jail time. Taxpayers may face fines of up to 300% of the omitted tax, and tax authorities may also take legal action. 

    Tax Planning

    Tax planning is the process of legally arranging one's financial matters to reduce one's tax burden. It entails minimising taxable income to the greatest extent possible by using all tax breaks available under the current tax code. 

    Some popular examples of tax planning are:

    • Making investments that qualify for tax deductions under Section 80C, like Public Provident Fund (PPF), Equity Linked Saving Scheme (ELSS), health and life insurance premiums, tax-saving fixed deposits, National Saving Certificate (NSC), National Pension Scheme (NPS), Employee Provident Fund (EPF), etc. This helps reduce taxable income up to INR 1,50,000 plus an additional INR 50, 000 under subsection 80CCD (1B).
    • Buying a house property using a home loan makes principal and interest payments eligible for tax benefits under sections 80C and 24.
    • Claiming HRA exemption by living in a rented house.
    • Claiming allowable business expenses and depreciation to lower business income.
    • Investments that earn tax-free income include PPF interest, stock dividends, etc.
    • Timing capital gains to optimally utilise fundamental exemption limits. For instance, if you are invested in equity mutual funds for short-term (less than 3 years) and long-term (more than 3 years), your gains will be taxed at 15% and 10% over and above INR 1 lakh without indexation, respectively.

    The intention behind tax planning is to legally claim all deductions and exemptions allowed under the Income Tax Act and optimise taxes by efficiently planning investments and expenses.

    Limitations Of Tax Planning

    While tax planning is legal, there are certain limitations to it:

    • The taxpayer needs a good understanding of tax laws to plan efficiently. 
    • Tax rules and exemptions may change every year. You need to stay updated, as what saved taxes earlier may not work now.
    • Overdoing tax planning to lower tax outgo aggressively may sometimes be counterproductive. It may also attract the attention of tax authorities.
    • Tax planning requires discipline to make suitable investments and claim deductions. Not everyone is inclined and means to do so meticulously year after year.
    • Many tax-saving options, such as PPF and ELSS funds, come with a lock-in period, which means the money is blocked for the long term.

    Tax Avoidance

    Tax avoidance refers to reducing tax liabilities by arranging possibilities within the law but in a manner that lowers tax obligations. It is about exploiting loopholes or grey areas in tax laws to minimise taxes.

    For example, setting up an office in a tax haven country to route transactions through that location and avoid domestic taxes could be construed as tax avoidance. Other examples are complex business restructuring aimed more at tax arbitrage than operational efficiency and misusing tax treaties between countries.

    Sometimes, the line between prudent tax planning and avoidant tax abuse can become blurred. However, countries now have General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) to curb such practices.

    Features And Differences Between Tax Evasion, Tax Avoidance, And Tax Planning


    Tax Evasion

    Tax Avoidance

    Tax Planning



    In ethical grey areas, but technically legal



    Evade tax obligations through deception

    Find loopholes to minimise taxes

    Optimise taxes through proper planning


    Fraud, concealment, deception

    Exploiting ambiguities and loopholes in tax law

    Claiming deductions, exemptions, and credits per tax law


    Penalties, fines, prosecution

    Reputational damage, changes in laws

    Audit risk if too aggressive


    Jail time, penalties, interest on unpaid taxes

    No legal consequences, but public backlash is possible

    Tax optimisation, if done properly


    Not reporting income, hiding money in secret accounts

    Routing funds through shell companies, creative accounting

    Investing, harvesting losses, donating to charity


    Unethical and harmful; undermines the tax system

    Raises ethical concerns, especially when exploiting clear legislative intent

    Ethical if not pushing limits


    Tax evasion, avoidance, and planning describe people's tax strategies, ranging from illegal evasion to encouraged legal planning. Understanding each concept is essential for individuals and businesses to comply with regulations and maintain ethical standing.

    Moderately aggressive tax planning aligns with the spirit of tax codes while minimising liabilities. But crossing into evasion erodes public trust. Taxpayers should know potential grey areas and avoid stretching interpretations solely for tax reduction goals.

    With complex, ever-evolving tax laws, it helps to consult tax experts when planning finances. They can ensure taxes are lowered in a compliant, ethical manner. The objective should be maximising after-tax income legally, not just minimising tax bills through exploitation.

    For more information on taxes and investments, follow Grip Invest

    Frequently Asked Questions On Taxes

    1. What are tax evasion and tax avoidance as per law?

    Tax evasion usually means lying about how much money you make, pretending your expenses are higher than they are, or doing secret transactions with cash. On the other hand, tax avoidance is a legal way to pay less tax, like investing in different plans.

    2. What are some examples of legal tax planning?
    Legal tax planning examples include Section 80C, splitting income through filing jointly, deferring capital gains taxes through opportunity funds, donating appreciated assets to charity, and harvesting capital losses to offset gains. Also, deposits in the Public Provident Fund, Five-year fixed deposits, the National Savings Certificate, and Investments in the ELSS scheme help with tax planning.

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