Budget 2016: Rahul Gandhi is right because the so called ‘one-time’ black money disclosure scheme announced in the Budget is simply an admission by the government that it is incapable of catching those who have stashed wealth illegally and don’t pay taxes.
You don’t need to ask a politician, whether it is prudent to offer a window to those who have accumulated wealth illegally to come clean — it is against the honest taxpayers and only tells those evading taxes that the government will come out with schemes time and again to make black money white so why fear the taxman.
So, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s compliance window for the domestic taxpayers (tax evaders) questions the very promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of dealing with black money with a firm hand.
It was expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made it a big election plank (in 2014 Lok Sabha polls) will allow the government machinery a free hand to deal with black money hoarders; but, by giving his stamp of approval to the compliance window for domestic taxpayers after poor results in the scheme for foreign black money (only Rs 4,147 crore was disclosed) last year, he has only put a question mark on his own promise.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, therefore, even though he is not right in taking an anti-government stance in everything, is right in questioning the black money disclosure scheme brought in the Budget.
He has raised the question which would be there in the minds of every honest taxpayer by pointing out in the Lok Sabha: “The Finance Minister announced a fair and lovely scheme, saying it was Modiji’s scheme which would convert black money into white. In 2014, Modi had said I will finish black money… I will jail anybody who has black money. But under this scheme, nobody will go to jail, nobody will be arrested, nobody will be asked anything. Go to Arun Jaitleyji, pay tax and turn black money into white”.
The fact of the mater is that even the tone and the tenor of the announcement made in the Budget speech hardly suggests that the government is even capable of catching those accumulating black money.
“I propose a limited period Compliance Window for domestic taxpayers to declare undisclosed income or income represented in the form of any asset and clear up their past tax transgressions by paying tax at 30%, and surcharge at 7.5% and penalty at 7.5%, which is a total of 45% of the undisclosed income. There will be no scrutiny or enquiry regarding income declared in these declarations under the Income Tax Act or the Wealth Tax Act and the declarants will have immunity from prosecution. Immunity from Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988 is also proposed subject to certain conditions,” FM Jaitley said.
Of course, to make it look like something that will serve the public interest, he said ‘the surcharge levied at 7.5% of undisclosed income will be called Krishi Kalyan surcharge to be used for agriculture and rural economy’.
The government, obviously, should have found a better way to garner resources for meeting the needs of the agriculture and rural areas than depending on the revenue collected through this Income Disclosure Scheme window, which will be open from June 1 to September 30, with an option to pay the amount due within two months of declaration.
Nobody will believe FM Jaitley’s another empty promise made after making this announcement, “Our Government is fully committed to removing black money from the economy. Having given one opportunity for evaded income to be declared once, we would then like to focus all our resources for bringing people with black money to books.”
No law can tackle black money till the time government has the political will to do it. Call it amnesty scheme or disclosure window, it just displays the government’s weak resolve to tackle the menace of black money.