The Lok Sabha on Monday passed The Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015, after the government once again turned down the Opposition’s demand for referring the new piece of legislation to a standing committee; this time on the premise of urgency to have a deterrent law for those “secreting” their income and assets abroad.
In making his case against legislative scrutiny by a parliamentary committee, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley used the Opposition’s repeated jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party for failing to keep its poll promise of addressing the problem of black money at the earliest. “For the last 11 months, you have been very boldly saying, why don’t you take steps? We have taken steps. Please now start walking the talk and support those steps rather than go into the technicalities of referring them to the Standing Committee.”
Most of those who spoke during the discussion were one in pointing out that the Bill does not prevent the generation of black money in the country and some members, including B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal), were apprehensive that this could become another tool in the hands of enforcement agencies to harass innocent people. Also, the government was at the receiving end for failing to deliver on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election promise of bringing back all the black money stashed by Indians overseas and depositing Rs. 15 lakh in the accounts of each family within 100 days.
Deepinder Hooda (Congress) said the Bill was essentially drafted by putting together amendments introduced in the Income-Tax Act by the UPA government and has been repackaged as a new legislation. Also, he warned that there were provisions in the Bill that could deter NRIs — many of whom “chanted Modi-Modi at Madison Square” — from returning to settle in India, but wished the government the very best in this endeavour.
The Bill includes a limited-offer voluntary disclosure scheme for those with undisclosed assets abroad as per which they can legalise what they hold by paying a 30 per cent tax and equal percentage penalty. Once the compliance period closes, the tax component remains at 30 per cent but the penal provision triples to 90 per cent along with criminal prosecution