New Delhi, May 16, 2017
If you splurged on something really expensive or made an enormous investment recently, rest assured your accounts won’t be opened up for scrutiny by the income tax department as long as these can be squared with your declared income.
“Scrutiny will be based on specific information,” a senior income tax official told ET. In other words, big transactions will no longer automatically qualify a person for scrutiny. The income tax department will only start asking questions if it has clear information that calls for an investigation, sparing honest taxpayers.
This was the outcome of a high-level meeting held by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) last week to review the conditions for scrutiny. Such cases are currently picked up through computer-based criteria related to transactions above a certain ceiling. This idea is to ensure that regular taxpayers such as salaried employees don’t face unnecessary hassle and to allow tax authorities to focus their energies on high-risk individuals or entities where information of possible wrongdoing is available.
The department’s multiple data sources include the tax authorities of other countries and high-value transactions in India that will likely be the basis of any scrutiny.
Those identified under the department’s Operation Clean Money as having made large cash deposits in banks and bought costly items after demonetisation was announced could also face scrutiny if they have not explained their transactions satisfactorily.
The department gathered a huge amount of data as part of Operation Clean Money, which followed demonetisation, and is subjecting it to analytics to detect patterns and discover attempts at tax evasion. It has already identified 60,000 individuals, who will now face closer investigation.
But there is a conscious effort to make a shift towards quality rather than quantity to ensure the effectiveness of the exercise. The focus will be on limited scrutiny based on information with the department rather than a general one. Roving enquiries won’t be permitted and a limited scrutiny can only be converted to a general one after following adequate procedures.
ET VIEW: Use Big Data
This is the right thing to do. Tax department should not raise the compliance burden of salaried taxpayers, whose taxes are assiduously deducted at source. A modern networked tax administration must be equipped to use big-data analytics to catch the big fish who swim outside the tax net.
[The Economic Times]