Govt talks tough, to track cash deposits closely

RBI displays the newly issued rupees 500 and 2000 notes at its headquarters in Mumbai
Black money holders will not get any relief from the existing provision of up to 90 per cent tax on unaccounted income for cash deposits above Rs 2.5 lakh. The finance ministry on Wednesday warned that any mismatch between the deposited sum and income declared would attract up to 30 per cent income tax and 200 per cent of tax liability as penalty. Also, jewellers not furnishing the permanent account number (PAN) of buyers would face action, the ministry cautioned, even as there was rush to buy gold on Wednesday.

“It should be clear that it’s no immunity scheme. This (deposit) does not provide any relief from taxation. The law of the land will apply (on source of fund),” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. 

Explaining it further, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia tweeted: “We would be getting reports of all cash deposited during the period of November 10 to December 30, 2016, above a threshold of Rs 2.5 lakh in every account. The (tax) department would do matching of this with income returns filed by the depositors. And, suitable action may follow.”

Any mismatch with income declared by the account holder will be treated as a case of tax evasion, he said.

“This would be treated as a case of tax evasion and the tax amount plus a penalty of 200 per cent of the tax payable would be levied as per the Section 270(A) of the Income-Tax Act,” Adhia tweeted.

It should be noted that one has to furnish PAN in cash deposits of Rs 50,000 and above. This is information goes to the tax department. However, following demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the government is giving relief up to Rs 2.5 lakh of deposits. 

Meanwhile, the government tried to calm people who might have to queue up to withdraw money from banks on Thursday. A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) notification said banks would remain open on Saturday and Sunday, too, for the benefit of the public. However, a call is yet to be taken on keeping banks open on Monday, which is a holiday. 

“We need two to three weeks for a complete replacement of high-denomination currency notes. We are striving to make cash available in post offices and banks via RBI currency chests,” Jaitley said at a press conference. RBI will issue new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes from Thursday. 

“We will tweak the cash withdrawal limits on an ongoing basis. Railway stations, medicine outlets, toll gates and ASI buildings will accept old notes,” he added. 

Financial Services Secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal said banks had been asked to open more counters and keep refilling ATMs. She said her department was in touch with RBI and was monitoring cash availability. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, on Tuesday, announced existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes could be deposited by people in banks and post offices between November 10 and December 30 by showing identity proof. There is no limit on such deposits, but if old notes are exchanged for new ones, there is a cap of Rs 4,000 till November 24. There will also be a cap of Rs 10,000 a day and Rs 20,000 a week on withdrawals from banks and Rs 2,000 a day from ATMs. This limit will be increased in the coming days. 

The road ministry said it had suspended toll collection on national highways till Thursday midnight. A sudden rush at ticket counters forced the Railways to ask RBI to issue lower denomination notes from its regional centres to the railway zones concerned with immediate effect. The Railways generates about Rs 126 crore in ticket revenue daily.

Adhia said farmers’ genuine income is not liable to tax and, hence, they need not worry about depositing scrapped currency notes in their accounts. However, the income should not be disproportionately high compared to the yield expected from land.

On people resorting to buying jewellery with cash, Adhia said: “Action will be taken against those jewellers who fail to take PAN numbers from buyers. When the cash deposits of the jewellers would be scrutinised against the sales made, whether they have taken the PAN number of the buyer or not will also be checked,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the Central Board of Direct Taxes is working on the role it will play once the old currency notes come up for exchange. The income tax department would work with banks and the Financial Intelligence Unit to track suspicious transactions, sources said. 

On Wednesday, the first day the demonetisation, Mother Dairy booths were seen accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes only if buyers showed identity cards and if they bought goods worth either Rs 500 or Rs 1,000. 

People faced problems buying essential items and using public transport as there was a dearth of change. Fuel pumps and toll plazas saw long queues.

An acute shortage of Rs 100 currency notes brought trading in wholesale markets to a halt from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazaar to Kanpur’s Loha Bazaar and Sarafa Bazaar, or Nagpur’s Itwari Bazar and Gandhi Putla to Mumbai’s Byculla and Kalbadevi.

“I’m sure people will cooperate in dealing with the difficulties and inconvenience that they might face. Eventually, things will settle down,” said Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa. 

Jaitley did not agree with the view the economy would slow down because of the move. “The Prime Minister’s decision will expand the gross domestic product,” he said. “The decision will increase direct and indirect tax collections in the medium- and long-term,” he added.

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