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CBDT fixes timeframe to send queries to treaty partners
June, 18th 2015

Delays in sending queries to treaty partners regarding individuals being investigated has prompted the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to frame timeline within which such queries are to be sent. Official sources told The Indian Express that the CBDT has directed all field officials to seek information or evidence for the purpose of investigation and assessment at least “three months before the time-barring date”.

Further, concerned over the quality of requests made by the income tax officials, the CBDT has also recommended that training should be conducted for the officials, by the end of December, on exchange of information, framing of requests and providing clarifications and feedback.

In order to curb offshore tax evasion, some 61 jurisdictions have joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement so far for automatic exchange of information beginning 2017. Under the agreement, countries would be required to automatically exchange information regarding individuals or entities on their financial accounts, interest, dividends and sales proceeds from financial assets.

The directive, which is a part of the central action plan of the CBDT for the current financial year, comes in wake of the earlier criticism within the department that while the quality queries were deteriorating, there were delays too in filing the requests.

In 2013-14, the government made more than 175 requests to treaty partners in case of specific taxpayers while it had collected 7,704 discrete items of information from the treaty countries containing details of payments received by Indian citizens in various countries.

“Further, the clarifications sought by foreign authorities in respect of exchange of information requests should also be provided within 15 days of receipt by authorities concerned. The feedback on utilisation of information including additional tax demand raised on completion of assessment should be provided to the international taxation division within one month of completion of assessment,” the directive said.

The department has also emphasised on maintaining the confidentiality of the information and has made a case for training the filed officials too in data protection safeguards and guidelines.

In case, the department said, the requests are made by tax authorities of foreign countries for information to tackle tax evasion and avoidance in their country, “it has to be given high priority by officer within 30 days of the request received by the officer concerned.”

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