There's some delightful news for those with Swiss bank accounts. Indians , who opted for such numbered account service, have a way to mislead anyone trying to hunt them down. For them, a new window in the tax law has flung open just when some of the doors are about to shut. The law of the land has made it possible for them to bring back the money , legitimise it by paying 15% tax, and park it in any account with a bank in India. No questions will be asked. The taxman won't harass them because it's money on which tax has been paid.
Officials at the enforcement directorate can't slap a summon because it's authorised transfer of funds from an overseas firm to a company in India through official banking channels. There are certain expenses involved as lawyers and accountants have to be hired to make the money transfer look genuine. You can't really ask your Swiss banker to send the money straightaway to your savings account with the State Bank's Santacruz branch. The man may think you have finally lost it.
There are other foolproof ways of going about with such business. A new company has to be set up in one of the tax havens, money has to be moved out from the secret numbered account to the account of the newly-formed company with another bank and then pay the amount as dividend to an Indian company. Ask your chartered accountant; he knows all about it, and even if he doesn't , he will give you the telephone number of a professional who does. Such a professional will guide you through the maze of foreign exchange and tax rules to help you bring back the money that is rightfully or wrongfully yours.
Take one step at a time: Step 1: Set up a company in Dubai. It's easier than setting up one in India : Apply for a name with Dubai authorities and submit a simple memorandum . It will cost a few lakhs and will be done in a week. You will get an address, bank account and directors pooled in from an army of 'service providers' floating around in Dubai. (In a recent seminar, one of the Dubai state officials promised all assistance to Indian companies setting up arms in UAE). An Indian firm controlled by the Swiss bankaccount holder floats the Dubai subsidiary . This new subsidiary has a single purpose: to hold the money that will move out of Switzerland to Dubai, before it travels to India.
Step 2: Now, the money lying with the Alpine bank has to be transferred to a Dubai Bank, where the newly set-up company has an account . Let's call this firm Fei Qian - the Chinese term for flying money. Since it's unlikely that any company in Dubai will carry such a name, authorities in UAE will take little time in giving the permission. Hours after the Swiss bank receives instruction , money flows out of the numbered account to Fei Qian's account in Dubai.
Fei Qian poses as a global consultant with clients across Europe , and the money that has just flown into its Dubai account are fees from these clients. Swiss banks will never say why and where they transfer funds, while Dubai survives by instructing their banks not to ask such silly questions. Step 2 is over. What follows is the last leg of the money flow - the passage to India.
Step 3: The Indian parent of Fei Qian receives the money as dividend income from its subsidiary in Dubai. The money may travel in tranches with decent intervals to avoid needless suspicion. Indians with Swiss bank accounts couldn't have asked for a better deal from New Delhi. Pay a 15% one-time tax and everything is forgotten and forgiven. Dubai has no tax. So, Fei Qian pays no tax - neither when it 'earns' the money nor when it distributes dividends to the Indian parent . The only tax that's paid is 15% of the money after it comes to India.
It's a tax rate that's 2-3 % lower than Singapore's , and half of what firms and individuals in India pay. More and more individuals are beginning to spot the beauty of the 15% tax rule. It's nothing but a backdoor amnesty scheme. A full-blown amnesty scheme, particularly calling it 'amnesty' , would have stirred a hornet's nest: bad press, hue and cry from the Opposition, public interest litigations filed by righteous individuals and embarrassing questions from Supreme Court judges.
Why turn things ugly? Lower the tax on certain inflows from abroad and let smart guys figure out the rest. What's more, once the Dubai subsidiary is up and running, the Swiss bank account holders do not have to snap their ties with the banks that have guarded their secrets for years. All they have to do is close the numbered account and let the Dubai company open a new account with the Swiss bank. The money that's not sent to India as dividend can come back to the new account in Switzerland.
If the Indian government fishes for details on certain individuals after January 1 when the now-famous Indo-Swiss treaty comes into force, Swiss banks are not bound to talk on accounts that have already been closed. Numbered accounts will be history while new accounts opened by some Dubai firms will pass off as normal corporate business. Like Dubai, Switzerland too needs our money.