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In the backdrop of the debate generated by the appeals on Aadhaar being currently heard by the Supreme Court on whether privacy is a fundamental right, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said privacy cannot be touted as an excuse not to comply with one’s legal obligation on tax matters.

“Taxes are the backbone of any economy. In India, the mindset of the people on taxes is gradually changing and they want that no one should be exempt from tax,” Jaitley told Income Tax (I-T) Department employees at an event here to mark Income Tax Day 2017.

“Privacy cannot be made an excuse for non-compliance,” he said, exhorting the Department officials to expand the tax base in a non-intrusive manner.

The I-T Department has made quoting the Aadhar Unique ID number mandatory in filing income tax return from July 1.

The Supreme Court is considering whether privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen in a case that could have implications for the country’s biometric identity programme. Activists, lawyers and politicians have challenged the government over the legal basis of the Aadhaar programme, while the apex court will decide if the system should be thrown out or modified.

The Aadhaar unique ID authority has collected fingerprints, iris and facial scans, as well as addresses, phone numbers and personal details of more than 1.1 billion citizens. The data of each person is linked to a unique 12-digit identification number.

On the sidelines of the event here on Monday, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra told reporters that Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) will not have to give details of their bank accounts held outside the country while filing their income tax returns, provided they are not seeking refunds.

“It (providing details of foreign bank accounts) is not mandatory. It is optional. It is for cases where refund is sought,” Chandra said.

That column in the income tax returns (ITRs), he said, is to be filed in “only one condition, that is, if they (NRIs) are seeking a refund.”

First Published | 24 July 2017 9:46 PM
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