The government has proposed a one-time amnesty for all those who have stashed black money abroad. The Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of New Tax) Bill, 2015 cleared by the Cabinet on Tuesday also proposes stringent action against offenders, including rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years.
“One-time compliance opportunity to those who have stashed illicit money abroad will be provided. The evader will be allowed to pay tax and penalty on the amount. The details of the scheme will be put in the public domain only after passage of the bill by parliament,” said sources.
The bill is likely to be tabled in parliament before March 20.
Sources said the amnesty opportunity, however, would be available for a “very short duration of few months”. According to sources, it would not include cases which are already being probed by the Income Tax department, including the HSBC list provided by France.
Last month, an investigation by The Indian Express revealed 1,195 Indian HSBC clients, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the government in 2011.
According to the provisions of the bill, the concealment of income and assets located abroad and evasion of tax on them will be a prosecutable offence with a punishment of rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years. A penalty of 300 per cent of the tax amount can be levied. The offence will be non-compoundable and the offenders won’t be allowed to approach the settlement commission.
The bill will also make non-filing of income tax returns or filing of returns with inadequate disclosure of foreign assets liable for prosecution with punishment of rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years.
It will make it mandatory for the owner or beneficiary of foreign assets to file returns, giving the date of opening of foreign account.
Individuals, entities, banks and financial institutions will be liable for prosecution and penalty if found abetting such offences.
Concealment of income in relation to a foreign asset will be made a “predicate offence” under the PMLA, enabling enforcement agencies to attach and confiscate such assets. The government is also likely to amend FEMA to enable strict action in such cases.
The BJP-led government has been under attack from the opposition for not delivering on its promise to bring back black money. The BJP had made this a major issue during the Lok Sabha poll campaign.