In tax returns filed a year before they were elected, 72 percent of Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress MPs and MLAs claimed they earned less than Rs. 10 lakh, according to an analysis of affidavits by 4,848 (of 4,910) lawmakers.

As many as 75 percent of MPs and MLAs nationwide declared annual incomes less than Rs. 10 lakh. Around 35 percent of lawmakers said their annual incomes were less than Rs. 2.5 lakh while 40 percent have declared annual incomes between Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh.

As many as 1,141 (24 percent) MPs and MLAs have claimed exemption from income taxes or that they have no income at all.

"We can conclude that we are largely a tax non-compliant society," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said sarcastically during his budget speech on Feb. 1.

Sharing income tax data, Jaitley said that of 37 million individuals (of a total population of close to 1.3 billion) who filed tax returns in 2015 and 2016, 9.9 million (27 percent) declared annual incomes below the exemption limit of Rs. 2.5 lakh; 19.5 million (53 percent) declared annual incomes between Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh, while 7.6 million (20 percent) declared annual incomes of more than Rs. 5 lakh.

If the annual incomes of families (incomes of spouse and dependents as declared in their respective tax returns) are added to the incomes of MPs and MLAs, 62 percent of legislators' households have an income of less than Rs. 10 lakh.

About half (2,410) of MPs and MLAs have declared household assets (movable and immovable assets of the elected member, spouse and dependents) of more than Rs. 2 crore, of which 912 (38 percent of 2,410) declared family incomes of less than Rs. 10 lakh.

Of 1,843 MPs and MLAs with family incomes of more than Rs. 10 lakh, 106 declared household assets of less than Rs. 1 crore.

Only 25 percent (1,236 of 4,848) of MPs and MLAs declared in their tax returns that their annual incomes were more than Rs. 10 lakh; 35 percent (1,676 of 4,848) declared incomes less than Rs. 2.5 lakh.

While 63 percent of Lok Sabha MPs declared annual incomes of less than Rs. 10 lakh, only 13 percent of Rajya Sabha MPs declared annual incomes of less than Rs. 10 lakh.

Among states, over 80 percent of MLAs in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha declared annual incomes less than Rs. 10 lakh.

As many as 1,676 (35 percent) elected representatives declared annual incomes less than Rs. 2.5 lakh. Of these, 1,141 (24 percent) reported to the Election Commission that they were either exempt from income taxes on various grounds, such as being a farmer or from an area mentioned in the sixth schedule of the constitution, including the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, or that they had no income at all.

Only 38 percent (1,843 of 4848) of legislators said they had annual family incomes (incomes of an MP or an MLA and incomes of family, such as spouse and dependents), of more than Rs. 10 lakh; 28 percent (1,343 of 4,848) declared family incomes of less than Rs. 2.5 lakh.

Half of India's elected representatives declared household assets of more than Rs. 2 crore; 28 percent declared more than Rs. 5 crore. As many as 70 percent of MPs and MLAs had assets more than Rs. 1 crore.

Although assets are supposed to be declared by elected representatives at market price, immovable assets are grossly undervalued. A former election commissioner said the law was not being used to value assets by lawmakers accurately and urged people to go to court to force lawful evaluations, the Indian Express reported in Dec. 2013.

"How long will we overlook facts that stare us in the face?" Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Dec. 31, 2016. "I wish to share some information with you, which will either make you laugh, or make you angry. According to information available with the government, only 24 lakh people in India accept that their annual income is more than Rs. 10 lakh.

"If we look at any big city, it would have lakhs of people with annual income of more than Rs. 10 lakh. Do you not feel that for the good of the country, this movement for honesty needs to be further strengthened?"

In some way, the prime minister drew a correlation between assets and income declared to tax authorities. We found a weak correlation existed between the assets and incomes of MPs and MLAs.

* 38 percent (912 of 2,410) of legislators with assets more than Rs. 2 crore declared family incomes of less than Rs. 10 lakh.

* Of 1,079 lawmakers with assets in the range of Rs. 2 crore and Rs. 5 crore, only 44 percent (474) declared incomes more than Rs. 10 lakh.

* 22 percent (255 of 1,651) with assets between Rs. 2 crore and Rs. 10 crore declared incomes less than Rs. 2.5 lakh.

* 41 percent (891 of 2,155) with assets between Rs. 2 crore and Rs. 30 crore declared incomes less than Rs. 10 lakh.

* Of 156 lawmakers with household assets more than Rs. 50 crore, 10 declared incomes less than Rs. 10 lakh.

* Of 75 legislators with assets more than Rs. 100 crore, four reported incomes less than Rs. 2.5 lakh.

* 7 percent (106 out of 1,470) with assets less than Rs. 1 crore declared annual incomes more than Rs. 10 lakh.

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