Black money menace: Govt acts in over 80 cases, more to follow
New Delhi: In its crackdown against alleged black money in offshore accounts, the government has begun action in at least 84 cases and many more cases are being probed, although it is getting virtually no cooperation from countries like Switzerland.
The government is deploying "special efforts and alternative measures" to get information on cases of alleged tax evasion through zero or low-tax jurisdictions abroad, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday.
The statement assumes significance as the issue of black money allegedly stashed by Indians in Swiss banks and other foreign accounts is being seen as a major talking point for the upcoming general elections. Main opposition party BJP, as also the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party, have already been talking about this issue on various platforms.
In his interim budget speech, Chidambaram said the government has succeeded through alternative methods and special efforts in obtaining information in 67 cases despite several hurdles in obtaining from the countries concerned.
"Prosecutions for wilful tax evasion have been launched in 17 other cases. More enquiries have been initiated into accounts reportedly held by Indian entities in no tax or low tax jurisdictions," he said.
Regarding the 67 cases, Chidambaram later said tax liability would be determined and wherever law requires penalty would be imposed.
"All that we are trying to say is this exercise was started in 2011. It gathered pace in 2013. We faced numerous obstacles. Even now we have virtually no co-operation from a country like Switzerland. We are trying to get information through special efforts and alternative measures," he said.
The matter of alleged tax evasion through offshore accounts would be discussed at the G-20 meeting of Finance Ministers later this month in Australia, where Chidambaram would also be present.
Paris-based OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) would also present at G-20 meet a new global standard for automatic exchange of information on offshore tax evasion, which was adopted last week by India and 41 countries.
Welcoming the OECD framework to fight offshore tax evasion, 42 jurisdictions including India said in a joint statement that such a global collaboration was necessary to "clamp down on this harmful and abusive activity which reduces public revenues and increases the burden on those who pay their taxes".
After presenting this new standard in Sydney during G-20 meeting from February 22-23, OECD will come out with details of the new standard, as well as technical solutions to implement the actual information exchanges in September 2014.
This framework calls on jurisdictions to obtain information from their financial institutions and exchange that information automatically with other jurisdictions on an annual basis.
It also sets out the financial account information to be exchanged, the financial institutions that need to report, the different types of accounts and taxpayers covered, as well as common due diligence procedures to be followed by financial institutions.
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