Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said that disclosure of names of those with black money stashed in foreign bank accounts is not only unauthorised, but will violate the tax treaties and also hamper investigations to the benefit of the guilty.
“A disclosure in violation of tax treaties helps the account holder. The reciprocating state would treat this as a violation of a tax treaty and refuse to provide any evidence in support of the unauthorised account. The holder of the unauthorised account in the absence of any proof and confirmation from the reciprocating State would get the benefit in any investigation or prosecution,” the finance minister said in a post on his Facebook page, adding that a premature disclosure would also alert the account holder to prepare some documentation or even destroy evidence.
The finance minister explained that India was unable to participate in the recent multilateral pact on automatic exchange in Berlin since a prevalent view is that confidentiality clauses are unconstitutional in Indian law, adding that this needs to be reviewed.
“This view requires reconsideration,” he stressed, pointing out that an automatic exchange of information would relate both to authorised and unauthorised movement of money.
“Why should any information with regard to authorised movement of money be made public? Why should information even in relation of unauthorised movement of money be made public only for political or collateral purposes? Why should the account holder be alerted in advance?” he said.
In a post titled ‘Confidentiality clauses and the battle for tracing black money outside India’, on the same day as Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the issue of black money in his radio broadcast, Jaitley further said that an unauthorised disclosure of names could also lead to sanction of withholding taxes.
“They can attract sanctions in the form of withholding taxes. It is obvious that in a choice between unauthorised disclosure and disclosure as per treaties, the latter is both a fair and beneficial proposition. It will help in collection of evidence and exposure of a wrong doing in accordance with law and fair procedure,” he said, adding that the Reserve Bank of India has already cautioned about the adverse impact of non-compliance with the US government’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, 2010 (FATCA) that contains a confidentiality clause.
He also questioned the demand for disclosure of names in violation of tax treaties. “The Congress Party’s stand is understandable. It does not want evidence to be forthcoming in support of the names available with SIT. Are some others ill informed, just indulging in bravado or are they Trojan horses,” he said.
The minister also exuded confidence that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has been entrusted by the Supreme Court with the investigation, will succeed in bringing out the truth and the NDA government made available all the names in its possession to the SIT on June 27.