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Government to use info collected under various pacts to identify suspected tax dodgers
July, 07th 2016

The government is set to use the information collected under various international tax agreements to identify suspected tax dodgers and urge them to come clean through the ongoing black money scheme that expires on September 30.

The income-tax department will soon write to such individuals that they have been identified on the basis of information received under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) from the US, various tax information exchange agreements as well as other sources. It will also give these individuals the option of declaring their unaccounted income.

"Tax authorities are getting information from various sources, including foreign countries-...Letters would be sent out. The idea is to let people know that information is available with the department and if the sources of income are unaccounted, it is time to declare them now," said a tax department official.

These letters will not make people ineligible for making a declaration under the new black money window as these do not fall in the category of formal notices issues by the tax department. These are likely to just point out the undeclared transactions, ask people to explain them, and allow them to pay due tax.

The official said the black money window is one last opportunity for those who have willfully not declared income to come clean.

The issue was discussed at the recent annual conference of chief commissioners of income tax that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PM also appealed to people to come clean and pay taxes in his recent 'Mann Ki Baat' radio address.

India has already received the first batch of information under FATCA and has also exchanged data with some other tax jurisdictions. The government had unveiled a new scheme to unearth domestic black money in this year's Budget.

The window that opened on June 1 provides an opportunity to people having undisclosed income to come clean by paying tax, penalty and surcharge totalling 45% of fair market value.

This scheme does not apply to undisclosed income relating to the assessment year where a notice has been issued and served before May 31, 2016. Going forward, date received under various tax information exchange agreements will become an important source of cracking down on black money and tax evaders.

A global information agreement involving an increasing number of countries is set to begin from January 2017, which is expected to lead to a massive crackdown on international illicit flows.

Bharatiya Janata Partyhad promised action against black money as part of its 2014 electoral campaign. In line with the promise, the government set up a Special Investigation Team under the Supreme Court and last year unveiled a new law for black money stashed away overseas.

The law had also provided for a compliance window as a last opportunity for people to come clean before the new harsher legislation kicked in.

The scheme, however, received lukewarm response with only 644 declarations yielding Rs 2,428.4 crore in tax. Subsequently, there were demands from various quarters for a similar window for domestic undisclosed income.

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