In the cases of HSBC overseas bank accounts, tax demand of about Rs.5377 crore was raised till 31st March 2016, which includes demand in protective assessments.
Information regarding 628 Indian persons holding bank accounts in HSBC bank in Switzerland was obtained from the Government of France under Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) between India and France in 2011. Appropriate action has been taken in these cases which include enquiries, investigations, assessments, levy of penalty and filing of prosecution complaints before criminal courts, wherever applicable. As a result of systematic investigations in the cases of HSBC overseas bank accounts, undisclosed income of about Rs.8200 crore (including protective assessments in some cases) was brought to tax till 31st March 2016 in 398 cases. Tax demand of about Rs.5377 crore has been raised in these cases. Besides, concealment penalty of Rs.1282 crore was levied in 159 cases and 164 criminal prosecution complaints were filed in 75 cases till 31st March 2016.
Action against tax evasion/black money, including in respect of black money stashed away abroad, is an on-going process. Such action under direct tax laws includes searches, surveys, enquiries, assessment of income, levy of penalties and filing of prosecution complaints before criminal courts, wherever applicable.
Recognizing various limitations under the existing legislation [Income-tax Act, 1961, etc.], the Government enacted ‘The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015’ to specifically and effectively tackle the issue of black money stashed away abroad. This has, inter alia, provided for more stringent provisions of penalties and prosecutions in respect of black money stashed away abroad. Further, under this law, for the first time the offence of wilful attempt to evade tax, etc. in relation to undisclosed foreign income/assets has been made a Scheduled Offence for the purposes of the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002. This enables attachment and confiscation of the proceeds of crime of wilful attempt to evade such tax, etc., eventually leading to recovery of such undisclosed foreign income and assets/black money stashed away abroad. The new law came into force w.e.f. 01.07.2015.
In addition to the above, the Government has taken several measures to effectively tackle the issue of black money, particularly black money stashed away abroad. Such measures include policy-level initiatives, more effective enforcement action on the ground, putting in place robust legislative and administrative frameworks, systems and processes with due focus on capacity building and integration of information and its mining through increasing use of information technology. Recent major initiatives in this regard include –
(i) Constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Black Money under Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship of two former Judges of Hon’ble Supreme Court,
(ii) Constitution of Multi-Agency Group (MAG) consisting of officers of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) for investigation of recent revelations in Panama paper leaks,
(iii) Proactively engaging with foreign governments with a view to facilitate and enhance the exchange of information under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs)/Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs)/Multilateral Conventions,
(iv) According high priority to the cases involving black money stashed away abroad for investigation and other follow-up actions including prosecutions in appropriate cases, (v) While focusing upon non-intrusive measures, due emphasis on enforcement measures in high impact cases with a view to prosecute the offenders at the earliest for credible deterrence against tax evasion/black money,
(vi) Proactively furthering global efforts to combat tax evasion/black money, inter alia, by joining the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement in respect of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) and having information sharing arrangement with USA under its Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), (vii) Renegotiation of DTAAs with other countries to bring the Article on Exchange of Information to International Standards and expanding India’s treaty network by signing new DTAAs and TIEAs with many jurisdictions to facilitate the exchange of information and to bring transparency, (viii) Enabling attachment and confiscation of property equivalent in value held within the country where the property/ proceeds of crime is taken or held outside the country by amending the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 through the Finance Act, 2015, (ix) Enactment of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 to amend the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 with a view to, inter alia, enable confiscation of Benami property and provide for prosecution, (x) Initiation of the information technology based ‘Project Insight’ by the Income Tax Department for strengthening the non-intrusive information driven approach for improving tax compliance and effective utilization of available information.