Black Money Act comes into force in India

Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley

638 Indians declare assets of $580 mn just before the Black Money Act comes into force….reports Asian Lite News

Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs  Arun Jaitley
Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley

As India’s black money act came into force with the compliance window closing end-September, the government said it had drawn responses from 638 declarants for total assets worth Rs.3,770 crore ($580 million), and warned it would initiate action against those who have not disclosed their assets abroad within the deadline.

“Whatever has come, we accept it and now onwards we would start the action against those people who have not declared any asset and about whom the information would come to us,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told reporters here.

“In order to give them an opportunity, this compliance window was there up to September 30 and the figures we have got so far are that 638 people have announced their foreign investment or foreign assets including bank account balances and the total amount coming to Rs.3,770 crore,” he added.

The law provides for a compliance window for declaring and paying penalty. Failure to meet the compliance timeline will attract an additional penalty of 90 percent for a total tax liability of 120 percent on the quantum of black money stashed abroad.

September 30 was the last date under the amnesty scheme, that called for a tax of 30 percent and an equal amount in penalty, that is to be paid before December 31.

The official statement said the actual quantum of declaration, under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, was subject to a final reconciliation.

It said “the officer designated to receive the declarations worked till midnight on September 30, 2015,” on a day when the rush of black money declarants peaked at the Income Tax office here.

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairperson Anita Kapur said on Thursday that the government had taken all steps necessary to facilitate black money declaration.

“We clarified a lot of queries of people. We also facilitated their filing till midnight, as we got some last minute requests from places other than Delhi,” she said.

“Once the window is closed, the act with all its provisions will be enforced on defaulters,” she added.

In a second set of clarifications in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) format, the government last month reiterated total confidentiality of information furnished to unearth black money stashed abroad.

The finance minstry also relaxed conditions for those who cannot get bank statements of their foreign accounts, saying it would accept their “best estimate” declarations with a rider that a penalty would follow if disclosures were incomplete.

The income tax department in an earlier released list of FAQs, had 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.

Last month, Swiss and other European banks asked Indian customers to avail the one-time compliance window for disclosure of foreign assets.

A source here told IANS that Swiss and Britain-based banks have been asking Indian customers to provide fresh undertakings that all taxes have been paid on funds deposited by them in respective bank accounts.

Such undertakings have also been requested from high net worth individuals and corporate clients dealing in wealth and portfolio management, the source added.

The black money act, for the first time, allows levy of tax in India on assets kept abroad.

The Income Tax department has filed 121 cases of prosecution against those entities whose names have appeared in the HSBC Geneva bank list.

The 121 cases were filed before the March 31 deadline after which these cases would have become time-barred and thus could not be prosecuted by the department.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the government has completed an assessment of 350 foreign accounts and tax evasion proceedings had been initiated against 60 account holders.

This move followed the Supreme Court last year giving a list of 628 entities in the HSBC Geneva branch, furnished to it in a sealed envelope by the government, to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted in May last year.

India has no official estimate about the quantum of black money stashed away by Indians abroad but unofficial estimate puts it somewhere between $466 billion and $1.4 trillion.

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