Citing the mounting tax arrears and the ambitious growth target for direct tax collections this fiscal that Thursday?s Budget will likely endorse, the income tax department has ordered a major revenue mobilisation drive focusing on recoverable tax arrears, enhancing the share of tax deducted at source (TDS) in total revenue receipts and casting its net wide to cover 22 lakh more individuals who make high-value payments but do not file tax returns.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the apex policy-making arm of the finance ministry for direct taxes, has informed all field officials that tax arrears demand has increased to an alarming R6.75 lakh crore as on April 1, 2014, from Rs 5.8 lakh crore a year earlier. It has also given a detailed plan on meeting the 18.78% revenue growth target set in the interim budget.
Officials have been asked to recover a part of the arrears demand, which is not constrained by judicial restrictions on recovery. For the 2015 fiscal, officials have to recover about R42,000 crore of past dues, half of which ought to come from taxpayers assessed in Delhi and Mumbai, sources said.
Officials have also been instructed to check tax evasion, especially in the case of TDS defaults, and to raise the receipts from this stream in gross direct tax collection. TDS had accounted for R2.71 lakh crore in 2013-14, about 40 % of gross direct taxes revenue.
?TDS is a non-obstructive but very potent tool in widening the tax base,? said an official, who asked not to be named.
The department has processed data about high-value TDS defaults in the last seven years and is planning to reach out to corporate houses as well as their auditors to explain the ramifications of non-compliance and to offer an opportunity to resolve the issue online by paying the shortfall amount, late payment interest and other fees.
From 2007-08 onwards, TDS defaults have risen to R26,000 crore, sources said. It also implies that clients of the defaulting companies may not be able to avail of their due tax credit.
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Individuals who have made high-value transactions but have not filed tax returns are also likely to get notices from officials seeking an explanation. Tax officials are expected to approach about 22 lakh non-filers this fiscal.
Intense scrutiny on the revenue recognition practices of real estate companies as well as on the weighted deductions claimed by companies on their research and development spending are also high on the priority list. Companies that get tax deductions for the amount given to research institutions on specific projects may be denied the benefit if the research body does not maintain proper records.
The tax administration also intends to approach nearly 89 countries with which India has double tax avoidance agreements and another 16 nations with which it has tax information exchange deals to verify the source of income and other details of entities that make payments to businesses in India if their transactions are suspected of attempted tax evasion.