I-T department in hunt for small evaders as deadline looms

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NEW DELHI: Suddenly, there has been a surge in reopening of returns of small-time tax evaders, with income tax authorities deploying investigation units to search and survey suspect cases of tax evasion of up to Rs 50 lakh.
Cases are being reopened for assessment years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 as no action will be possible beyond March 31 for these three years. Changes proposed in the budget confined reopening of tax assessment to three years from the earlier six years. However, assessment can be re-opened for up to 10 years if there is concrete evidence of concealed income of Rs 50 lakh and above.
The amendments are yet to be notified. Tax officials, however, say the burden of reopening smaller tax evasion cases may lead to lack of focus on bigger evasions. Instructions have been issued to in vestigation units across the country to collate and disseminate all information related to suspect tax evasion cases flagged by assessing officers, particularly those getting time barred by March 31.
From the next financial year, starting April 1, assessing officers will only be allowed to reopen cases for assessment year 2018-19 for any tax evasion of up to Rs 50 lakh. Authorities in the finance ministry are worried about losing significant revenue coming from search and seizure cases on account of the new ‘amnesty’ granted to those evading tax up to Rs 50 lakh.
Sources said central authorities have sought a compliance report by March 2 where data of reopening of cases of small-time evaders are to be furnished by field formations.
Investigation units have also been looking at all suspicious transactions data shared by the Financial Intelligence Unit, besides ongoing investigation into the Panama and Paradise papers leak and HSBC list of Indians having deposits in Swiss accounts.
In the budget, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed “to completely remove discretion in reopening and henceforth reopening shall be made only in cases flagged by the system on the basis of data analytics, objection of CAG and in search and survey cases”.
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Dr john Masawe
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