New Delhi: Information provided during the one-time compliance window on black money, expiring next month-end, can be revealed in the public interest, the government has said.
“By and large, the information would be kept confidential. Under the new law (black money), it is not the case that we will put up a public notice that so and so has availed the benefit and paid tax,” Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das said at a “Talkathon” here on Tuesday with Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairperson Anita Kapur.
“However, the department can declare it in public interest,” he said.
“In this law, there is no assurance of confidentiality, but at the same time there is a provision that Section 138 of Income Tax Act, which is basically a confidentiality provision, that information of the individual tax payer will be kept confidential,” Das added.
The secretary said the revenue department would come out with a second set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.
The department had earlier released a list of FAQs, which also said disclosures made under the said Act would have “immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Income Tax Act, Wealth Tax Act, Companies Act and Customs Act”.
It, however, does not provide immunity from prosecution under any other statute.
The offence of wilful attempt to evade tax will also not be an offence under the PMLA, the FAQs added.
The one-time 90-day compliance window granted to foreign asset holders to make a declaration, however, does not guarantee immunity for wealth generated from corruption, it said.
Das also said it would be difficult for anyone to run away from the “long arm of the law” as the whole international community is taking concerted steps to check tax evasion.
“The Indian government will start getting information from different countries under the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) from 2017,” he said.
Kapur said that so far 25,000-30,000 people have declared such assets which they own legitimately.
“Those having undisclosed assets have been given an opportunity to come clean and if they do not take advantage, they will have to face the consequences, which includes tax and penalty of 120 percent and jail term extending up to 10 years,” she said.
The act providing for heavy penalties for stashing away black money in foreign accounts came into force earlier this month, and rules have been notified for calculating income and assets lying abroad under it.
The value of the overseas assets, including immovable property, jewellery and precious stones, archaeological collections and paintings, shares and securities and shares in unlisted firms abroad will be calculated at the fair market value, the CBDT notified last month.
The value of an overseas bank account will be the sum of all deposits made in the account since its opening.
The black money act for the first time allows levy of tax in India on assets kept abroad. Unlawful, undisclosed income abroad is taxed at a rate of 30 percent with an additional 30 percent penalty.
Failure to meet the declaration compliance window will attract an additional penalty of 90 percent for a total tax liability of 120 percent on the quantum of black money abroad.
The ministry has notified September 30 as the expiry date of the compliance window, while allowing those with undisclosed income and assets abroad time till December 31 to pay the levies.
Admitting that there was no official estimation of black money within India or stashed abroad, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament during the budget session that the government was examining the reports of three institutes on the matter.
An unofficial estimate puts the sum somewhere between $466 billion and $1.4 trillion.