Black money window fetches Rs 65,250 crore

The Narendra Modi government’s black money declaration scheme received Rs 65,250-crore disclosures during the four-month window that closed on Friday midnight.

The massive last minute rush to declare unaccounted cash and assets is expected to further drive up the disclosure amount. A total of 64,275 declarations were made under the Scheme, an average of about Rs 1 crore per disclosure.

This is expected to translate into tax collection of Rs 29,362 crore, of which the exchequer should get Rs 14,700 crore by the end of 2016-17, half of which will come by November 30.

At a press briefing on Friday, finance minister Arun Jaitley said people with significant resources availed the scheme and not small traders, as wrongly speculated by certain sections. “In such a large number, people came to declare eight-digit figure, this means people with high resources believed that tax compliance would benefit them. It is a very good figure,” he said.

Jaitley promised that secrecy of these declarations would be maintained and tax collections would be used for welfare of public. On measures taken over the past two years to reduce tax avoidance, Jaitley pointed out that the government has filed 164 prosecution cases out of the 175 cases of Rs 8,000-crore black money stashed overseas in HSBC bank accounts.

Based on investigation by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), undisclosed deposits in foreign accounts worth Rs 5,000 crore have been detected by the government and 55 prosecution cases have been filed. Similarly, investigation in the Panama Papers has led to 250 references being made to other countries, asking for details about tax evaders’ bank accounts.

The Income Declaration Scheme (IDS), launched on June 1, gave a one-time opportunity to declare black money and escape prosecution by paying 45 per cent tax on unaccounted money and assets. The tax amount includes tax rate of 30 per cent besides Krishi Kalyan Cess and penalty of 7.5 per cent each.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia and congratulated the department and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) for the feat. The stiff warning from the PM Modi against the black money holders earlier this month acted as a trigger for people to avail the amnesty scheme.

To a query on possible action against those who did not avail the scheme, Jaitley said “Neither there would be discrimination, nor favour to anyone. But we will not close our eyes to the responsibilities of people towards the law.”

CBDT Chairperson Rani Singh Nair also said the I-T department will not undertake any “increased scrutiny” or “harassment” of taxpayers, now that the window has closed but added any case of tax evasion will be processed as per law.

To popularise the scheme, the government allowed payments of taxes in three instalments. While 25 per cent tax payment needs to be made by November 30, another 25 per cent by March 31 and the remaining 50 per cent by September 30 next year. Earlier, the entire tax payment had to be made by November 30.

In the 1997 tax amnesty scheme — Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) — the government had received Rs 33,000 crore in declarations. Refusing to draw comparisons, Jaitley pointed out that VDIS did not impose a penalty on the declarants and allowed them to value the assets at 10-year-old market prices of 1987, rather than the current rates.

On measures taken over the last two years to reduce tax avoidance, Jaitley said a quantum jump in the searches and surveys resulted in the seizure of Rs 1,986 crore as well as undisclosed income of Rs 56,378 crore in the last two-and-a-half years. According to the finance ministry, Rs 16, 000 crore has been collected by using non-intrusive measures on account of upgraded IT database.

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