Linking Aadhaar with filing of income tax returns is a way to curb tax evasion, and action will be taken on “big depositors” of discontinued currency who have not replied to the Income Tax department’s queries on the source of cash, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday.
Fielding criticism from opposition parties such as the Congress, the BJD and the TMC over Aadhaar being made mandatory for income tax purposes, Jaitley said in told the Lok Sabha, “Yes, we are” making Aadhaar mandatory.
“Ninety-eight per cent of the adult population have Aadhaar. Why shouldn’t we make use of this technology if it helps us catch tax evaders,” Jaitley asked during his reply to the debate on Finance Bill, which was passed in the evening.
The minister said there have been instances of people using as many as five different PAN cards to evade taxes. “Since biometrics and iris information is also stored in Aadhaar, it will become much (more) difficult for people to evade the tax net,” he said.
The Bill had 40 official amendments, including the one on reducing the cap on cash transactions from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 2 lakh – effective April 1.
“We have kept a provision that a person who does not have Aadhaar can say I have applied for Aadhaar. We can’t allow people to say I will not make Aadhaar, but through multiple PAN cards will continue to evade taxes,” he said.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) said the Supreme Court had said in September last year that Aadhaar is not mandatory and wanted to know whether the government was “forcing” people to get it.
“Yes, we are,” Jaitley replied. “If the technology, which has a network of 108 crore people and all taxpaying households have it, and they give it along with their ITR (income tax returns), then the scope for fraud and tax evasion comes down.”
BJD members staged a walkout over the Aadhaar issue. Congress MPs walked out since the government gave no commitment on waiving farm loans. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House during the passage of the Bill.
With opposition parties questioning the government over benefits of the demonetisation process, Jaitley said that tax authorities are conducting “big data mining” to zero in on those with income disproportionate to cash they deposited during the 50-day process. “Around 18 lakh big depositors have been found whose income does not match with the amounts they have deposited. They have been mailed and SMSed, seeking explanation. Around 8.71 lakh have replied,” he said.
He said action will “definitely” be taken under Sections of I-T Act on the remaining 9.29 lakh who have not replied to the queries.
Jaitley said the cap on cash transactions is being reduced to curb generation of black money and the move to introduce electoral bonds is to cleanse political funding. Drawing Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s attention,
Jaitley said, the move is “not about any specific party. We want the Congress and all other parties to give us suggestion in a formal way. We will (then) consider them while formulating the electoral bond scheme, because the issue cuts across political lines.”
Responding to questions over the final tally of deposits received during the demonetisation period, Jaitley said it will be announced by RBI after every note is counted.