Tax panel formed to go after 20,000 evaders

TAX

Finance minister P Chidambaram has formed a team of revenue intelligence officials to track over 20,581 cases of high networth individuals and entities who have not filed their income tax returns, and get them to pay the amount they are suspected to have evaded.

The list was compiled after trawling through expenditure records of people from sources such as top-end automobile firms and luxury hotel membership schemes and records of gold and precious metals bought beyond a limit.

The team formed last week includes officials from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the Central Board of Excise and Customs, the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Sources told The Indian Express that the panel would act on cases picked by the tax department's computer-assisted security system, and ensure that field officers act against the evaders. The government expects to collect a "substantial amount" from this drive.

Last month, FIU-India, the country's nodal agency for analysing information on suspicious financial transactions, handed over this list of 20,581 cases to the finance ministry. It also gave more specific information about 5,456 cases which had a clear demand for arrears. These cases formed the basis for setting up the committee of revenue intelligence officials.

The finance minister has also decided that assessing officers will identify cases picked up by the system and refer them to the FIU. "The FIU will have to run the information through its database for short payment of tax or suspicious pattern of behaviour for those individuals," an official said.

The move comes as the government is struggling to meet its budgeted revenue target for 2012-13. On both direct and indirect taxes, it looks unlikely that the target of Rs 10.75 lakh crore will be met.

Going by even the most conservative estimates, revenue collection is likely to fall short by Rs 60,000 crore, according to the Vijay Kelkar committee on fiscal consolidation.

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