No comfort zone for tax evaders abroad as tax havens come to an end



Arun jaitley

With Switzerland making public names of some Indians with Swiss accounts, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has said the era of tax haven has come to an end and it is no longer safe to keep assets abroad illegally. “I have been repeatedly saying that the era of tax haven has come to an end. It is no longer safe to keep your assets overseas illegally,” he said in a press conference. The world is increasingly moving towards automatic transmission of information with regard to illegal money held up. By 2017, the situation will arise that we will able to get information in real time, he added.

“In the Black Money Bill, which we have brought, we have provided a provision of compliance window…you utilise this opportunity, declare your assets, pay tax and pay penalty. If you do not use this chance, then we will take strict action,” Jaitley warned. Earlier this month, Parliament had passed Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Bill, 2015, which seek to unearth unaccounted wealth stashed abroad.

The Finance Minister said persistent efforts had been made in the past one year with Swiss authorities to “break their banking secrecy”. “I have been repeatedly saying that the veil of secrecy with regard to assets and monies kept by Indian entities outside India is going to be lifted… This should give a sufficient indicator to those who hold assets outside India,” he said. The names of at least seven “Indian nationals” have been made public in Switzerland’s Federal Gazette with regard to details sought about them by the Indian authorities.

Industrialist Yash Birla, as also two Mumbai-based individuals behind City Limousines scam, are among the seven Indian nationals with Swiss bank accounts whose names have been made public in Switzerland’s official gazette with regard to ongoing tax probes against them in India.

The others are Gurjit Singh Kochar, son-in-law of late realty baron Ponty Chadha, a Delhi-based businesswoman Ritika Sharma, Sneh Lata Sawhney and Sangita Sawhney.  “From the last one year we have had extensive negotiations with the Swiss authorities. The Swiss authorities have been moving in the direction of cooperation. I am delighted that this cooperation would not have fructified on a better day than when our government completes its one year,” he said. “There is a G-20 initiative on this. The US has also taken initiative in this regard and India is a part of both these initiatives,” Jaitely said.

“We had sent a delegation, led by the Revenue Secretary. I had also visited Davos and had a talk on this issue. Later, when the Economic Affairs Minister of Switzerland had come here, we held a talk on this issue. At that time he had said they would not cooperate on information about the stolen data of HSBC (account holders),” he added.

“We told that if we provide evidence on that information, would you confirm it or deny it, and they had agreed. The information which has come now, though it has only some names, it is an important step in that direction,” he said.


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