Having brought 91 lakh taxpayers in the tax net and detecting undisclosed income worth Rs 23,144 crore in the six months after demonetisation, the government on Tuesday launched an online portal as an extension of its ongoing initiative of ‘Operation Clean Money’.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the message is clear that it’s no longer safe to deal with excessive cash as through the use of technology and data analytics, it has become easier to detect tax evaders.
Jaitley said that though the policies for “assisting, enabling and simplifying the life of an honest taxpayer” will continue, there will be “problems” for non-compliant taxpayers going ahead.
“One message has gone out clearly as per the steps taken by CBDT post-demonetisation–it’s no longer safe to deal with excessive cash. Detection has become very easy. Technology is a great enabler. You can go through various cross references, find out as to how money has moved and if there is an element of disproportionality in that movement, it can be identified. And it’s absolutely clear that those who are indulging in all this, are no longer safe,” Jaitley told reporters at the launch of the website.
The website will have thematic reports, details on actions taken by the tax department under the initiative, especially with reference to clusters such as jewellers, petrol pump owners.
Under the second phase of Operation Clean Money, which was initially launched on January 31, the tax department engaged two data analytics firms and classified the taxpayers into the four categories of high risk, medium risk, low risk and very low risk. The tax department plans to undertake enforcement actions against the persons in high risk category, which has around 1 lakh persons, with the amount of deposits involved estimated to be around Rs 1.72 lakh crore.
“We want that those who are medium risk and low risk categories of tax evaders, they should come forward and file returns. We will follow high risk cases with enforcement actions such as searches, surveys, tax collections,” Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman Sushil Chandra said.
The medium risk category has the highest number of taxpayers under scanner at 7.54 lakh persons, while 5.95 lakh persons are in low risk category and 3.41 lakh persons are in very low risk category.
Jaitley said that after demonetisation, there is a movement towards digitisation and the number of assessees and the quantum of tax received has gone up, adding that the number of 91 lakh new taxpayers is “set to increase”. There has been a 22 per cent growth in e-filed returns post demonetisation, Chandra said.
During November 2016-March 2017, the tax department conducted search actions on 900 groups that revealed undisclosed income of Rs 16,398 crore. Assets worth Rs 900 crore were seized, out of which Rs 636 crore was in cash. Surveys were conducted in 8,239 cases which led to detection of undisclosed income of Rs 6,746 crore. The department referred more than 400 cases to the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI that registered various cases. While the ED has arrested 18 persons, the CBI arrested 38 persons.
“We want to convey a message that if you are doing something wrong, there is not only one department, other departments will also take action simultaneously. And you cannot escape from it. So, that fear should be in the mind of the assessee if they are doing something wrong. There should be no fear in the mind of honest taxpayer,” Chandra said.
Under the first phase of ‘Operation Clean Money’, the tax department had sent communications to 17.92 lakh people who had made suspicious deposits of Rs 5 lakh and above between November 10 and December 30. Of these, 9.72 lakh person have responded on sources of the cash deposits.