Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to announce policy initiatives on some of the key recommendations made by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money to combat the menace of illicit funds, stashed within the country and overseas, when he presents the Budget on February 28.
While the SIT has suggested over a dozen measures to the government to check “black economy” in the country, some special recommendations and requirements have been raised by various financial investigation agencies which they feel will arm them to effectively deal with the problem.
Experts and officials said SIT’s demand to firm up official protocols vis-a-vis sharing of information between various law enforcement agencies and making amendments in anti-money laundering laws and Income Tax Act could be considered for action in the Budget.
“Investigative agencies under various ministries have made presentations before the Finance Ministry with regard to the challenges they face when implementing anti-tax evasion laws or those used to counter such crimes. Some of these are expected to be taken up in the Budget,” sources privy to the development said.
They said the Permanent Account Number (PAN), issued by the Income Tax department, could be put for more “utilisation” for the probe agencies. This is a key recommendation made by the SIT in its report submitted to the Supreme Court and government last year in December.
An important measure suggested by the SIT and other agencies of making tax evasion a “crime” in the country could also be dealt with in the Budget.
“It could be done in a way that beyond a certain limit of say Rs 50 lakh tax evasion, as the SIT suggested, prosecution could be mandatorily initiated under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961,” the sources said.
Ensuring a robust framework for sharing of information between agencies like the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Customs snoop and Intelligence Bureau could also find a mention in the budget speech of the Finance Minister, the sources said.
“A central Know Your Customer registry, as suggested by the SIT, could be created by the government so that its database could be accessed by all law enforcement agencies under various ministries resulting in launching of strict action against money launderers, tax evaders and violators of economic laws,” they said.
An important recommendation of the SIT and probe agencies to amend the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to seize and confiscate assets based abroad may also be taken up, they said.
The government may also choose to fine tune some of the key international agreements and protocols which enable exchange of information on black money issues with foreign jurisdictions so that India not only remains an active partner in this fight but also leads it, they said.