Rejecting Opposition charge, he says UPA government has evolved a five-pronged strategy

Details of assets and payments received by Indian citizens in several countries have “started flowing in” and are being investigated, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.

Information about wealth stashed away in Swiss banks by Indians was expected before year-end, he said, pointing out that New Delhi had signed a Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty with Berne. It was likely to be ratified by the Swiss Parliament by September and information about tax avoidance should be available thereafter.

Information on assets and payments received by Indian citizens was under different stages of processing.

Rejecting the Opposition charge that the Centre was not serious about dealing with black money, Mr. Mukherjee told PTI that while previous governments, which included those under the BJP, the CPI and other Opposition parties, had done nothing, the United Progressive Alliance regime launched a five-pronged strategy.

Besides creating an appropriate legislative framework, the government started renegotiations with 75 countries to get more information. Negotiations had been completed with 53 countries or jurisdictions.

According to the latest estimates available, the Directorate of International Taxation had collected Rs. 33,784 crore in taxes from cross-border transactions in the last two financial years. In a large number of specific cases, information had been obtained under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs).

The Directorate of Transfer Pricing had detected mispricing of Rs.34,145 crore in the last two financial years, up from Rs.14,655 crore in the previous five years.

The investigation wing of the Central Board of Direct Taxes had detected a concealed income of Rs.18,750 crore in the last two financial years.

Mr. Mukherjee said India achieved success in getting information about black money in the last two years after the Pittsburgh summit of the G-20, where clear signals had been given that countries and tax havens could not continue with non-cooperation.

India joined the global crusade against black money and now had a huge network of amended DTAAs and Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with tax havens.

Dismissing Opposition claims, he said that by simply sending a couple of tax officials the government could not bring back black money from abroad.

On various estimates of Indian money stashed away abroad, including the figure of $ 468 billion, Mr. Mukherjee said, “This is just playing to the gallery.”

He had asked three expert groups to go into the estimates on black money independently and report to the government.

“We have taken a number of steps. Substantive issues are being addressed. You can get information only through legal instrumentalities. You can't get information through fishing expedition.”

Explaining the way the DTAAs work, the Minister said if the government found that there was a possibility of tax evasion, then a notice would be issued through courts, and the country concerned would be able to share information.

The DTAAs worked in two phases. One way was to collect taxes and the other was prosecution.

The government had got the names of 16 or 17 black money holders from Lichtenstein, he said.

On the Supreme Court appointing a committee of officials and two former judges to probe the issue of black money abroad, Mr. Mukherjee said the government had already filed a review petition because “there are certain law points we are fighting.”

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