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Weak sentiment may restrict tax mopup to budget levels: MC Joshi, Chairman, CBDT
October, 13th 2011

The slowing economy seems to have cast its shadow on the Central Board of Direct Taxes' plan to surpass the budget target on tax collections . Confirming the fears, MC Joshi , chairman, CBDT, says exceeding the budget target may be difficult now. Excerpts from an interview with Deepshikha Sikarwar.

Do you think the slowing economy will hit direct tax collections?

Sentiment is weak globally. Usually, taxpayers delay payments in a downturn. But, we should be able to achieve the budgeted targets. However, it will be difficult to meet the 10% additional mopup target. We will pay particular attention towards collection of tax arrears. We will focus on 60-70 % of corporate taxpayers.

We will also put to use information received through Annual Information Returns (AIRs). The committee constituted to look into ways of improving arrear collections has submitted its report and we are examining its recommendations. The emphasis will also be on expeditiously disposing appeals and collecting the undisputed demand.

Is there a spurt in anti-evasion measures by the I-T department?

Searches and surveys are meant to create effective deterrence against tax evasion. When tax compliance levels are low, deterrent actions need to be stepped up. So far, there is no indication that the compliance level has declined. So far, we have maintained a growth of over 25% in gross tax collections. Our method of tracking tax evasion has changed as we have a vast pool of data on most taxpayers, which is being used to identify potential tax evasion cases.

Are search and surveys part of the strategy to tackle black money menace?

Tax evasion is certainly a cause for growth of black economy, but the other and more serious cause is generation of income and assets through illegal activities or illegitimate means. These activities are different from tax evasion and such money is laundered or round tripped or simply taken abroad. This variety of tax evasion has serious repercussions for economic and national security.

In order to tackle this menace, we have created a directorate of criminal investigation, or DCI, headed by a DG at Delhi and offices located at eight cities. This world-class organisation, modelled on the US IRS-CI , is mandated to perform functions in respect of criminal matters having financial implications punishable as offence under any direct tax law.

A committee is also looking into ways of strengthening the laws dealing with black money. We have also embarked on verification of high financial transactions. IT systems have been upgraded . In the last two years, we have detected over Rs 30,000 crore of tax evasion domestically.

Is there any plan to increase numbers of transactions under AIRs?

We are exploring if some (more) transactions can be brought under AIR.

Why is the department aggressive on cross-border deals, transfer pricing and information exchange?

We have revised our tax treaties and entered into new agreements at a blistering pace over the last two years so that exchange of information and tax cooperation increases. We completed negotiations on 22 new tax information exchange agreements. We have set up eight more I-T Overseas Units to help track cross-border deals. Flow of information has started but it is a continuous process.

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