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Income Tax sleuths quiz PEs on source of funds, LPs
May, 28th 2016

Six domestic firms that have raised private equity (PE) money in the past few months have been quizzed by the income tax department, which is looking for detailed information on the source of funds and the identity of some limited partners (LPs), reports Deborshi Chaki and Khushboo Narayan in Mumbai.

Tax sleuths admitted the queries were a fallout of the recommendations of the special investigation team (SIT) on black money but said no investigation has been ordered against any of the six companies yet. “The department can seek information from an assessee,” an official said.

A sizeable chunk of domestic PE money is sourced from multiple tax jurisdictions overseas and is invested in unlisted Indian companies.

A couple of PE players confirmed the frequency of such queries had risen sharply of late.

The queries are understood to be driven by concerns some promoters could be using the PE route to channel black money, passing it off as legitimate investments, also known as round tripping.

“We were recently called by the I-T department to provide details of our investors,” said a senior partner of a domestic PE fund, who did not wish to be named.

Another fund manager of a large domestic buyout fund also admitted to receiving similar queries. “The officials wanted to know if the promoters of a company, in which we recently invested, had a financial involvement in our fund,” he said.

Senior income tax officials clarified the queries did not relate to any ongoing investigation like the probe by the Enforcement Directorate ( ED) into alleged money laundering by investors in Sequoia Capital and WestBridge Capital with regard to investment in Vasan Healthcare in 2009.

Data from Bain & Co India show India received a record $22.4 billion in PE investments in 2015 and $2.3 billion between January and March. LPs are individual and institutional investors who commit capital to a PE fund, which acts as a general partner or GP.

In July 2015, the SIT had proposed a series of measures to curb money laundering and round tripping. Based on these recommendation, the Securities and Exchange Board of India last week stipulated that Indian “know your customer” norms would be applicable to all issuers of offshore derivative instruments including P-notes used by foreign investors to trade in listed securities of Indian companies.

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