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OECD may tweak laws on bank information sharing for tax evasion & black money
December, 08th 2011

The government's efforts on ensuring automatic exchange of information on tax evasion and black money have been received well globally with a key body considering amendment to the international standard, which could allow countries to get banking details with retrospective effect.

"We have set up a group (to look into the changes in the international standard)," said Jeffery Owens, director, Centre For Tax Policy And Administration, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Owens said the Financial Action Task Force also plans to decree tax crimes as a predicate offense by June 2012, which will make prosecution of tax offenders much easier worldwide.

New Delhi has time and again raised the pitch on making information exchange more effective at various global fora, including the G-20.

Acknowledging India's efforts at the G-20, Owens said India had decided to become a member of the 35-member global forum ... that will also allow it to source information on tax evasion automatically.

Finance Secretary RS Gujral on Wednesday again raised the issue of making tax information exchange more effective by expeditiously amending the international standard. The OECD prepares the model agreements that countries enter into on tax matters.

"There is a need to change the international standard as it does not provide for sharing of past banking information," Gujral said.

India has experienced some success with increased global pressure on sharing information.

"About 10 countries have provided us automatic information and action is being initiated," Gujral said, adding the efforts would take some time to yield results. The countries include Mauritius, France, Germany and Denmark.

However, Gujral made it clear that the information was shared on the basis of confidentiality and could not be made public. India has amended 75 double tax avoidance agreements and signed 17 new tax information exchange agreements.

Over the last few months, the government has faced severe criticism from the Opposition and civil society for not being able to track the flow of black money in the economy.

"We have obtained certain information from Mauritius in the recent past regarding individual cases and action is being taken", Gujral said.

So far, India has signed seven TIEAs and has DTAAs with over 70 countries.

On the issue of India-Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, Gujral said the island nation has agreed to take the dialogue forward. "They have agreed to take dialogue forward... Let us see how it goes," he said. The major issue is the amendment that India has sought on capital gains benefit offered under the treaty, he added.

On specific cases, Gujral said: "In the LGT (Bank) case, prosecution has been launched, all cases are in court...the question is only how quickly we can initiate action, how quickly we can recover taxes." The government had imposed a penalty of Rs 24.66 crore on 18 individuals who have bank accounts with Liechtenstein's LGT Bank on the basis of information provided by the German authorities.

Germany had last year provided the names of some Indians having secret accounts in Liechtenstein's LGT Bank.

The Central Board of Direct taxes chairman MC Joshi said the panel on tracking black money had been given more time.

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