In a bid to allay fears, the government on Monday, 10 August, said full confidentiality will be maintained with regard to disclosures of unaccounted overseas wealth made under the black money compliance window, and only those who do not take advantage of the scheme need to worry.
Asking people to disclose unaccounted wealth by September 30, Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das today said the 90-day compliance window will not be extended, though the CBDT would continue to clarify all doubts on the black money law.
At a workshop organised by ICAI at the behest of CBDT he said, "A person can file disclosure online and information will be restricted to officers who require to know. Information will not be circulated far and wide. Confidentiality shall be maintained."
This is in contrast to the Das' statement last week, where he had said that the information provided during the one-time compliance window can be revealed in the public interest.
"In this law, there is no assurance of confidentiality but at the same time there is a provision that Section 138 of I-T Act, which is basically a confidentiality provision. However, the Department in public interest can declare it," Das had said.
Clarifying government's stand, Das today said the provisions of Section 138 of the Income Tax Act will be applicable to the information disclosed and full confidentiality will be maintained.
"Let us not create false alarm. Those who have stashed money abroad and not declared them has a lot more to worry because we will start getting information under automatic exchange of information and FATCA. Those who file disclosure information under compliance window under Black Money Act need not worry," Das said.
To allay fears that the Tax Department would start a greater scrutiny after someone avails a disclosure window, Das said if someone makes a declaration the I-T department "will not make a roving enquiry".
"We will verify whether we have received that information earlier under double taxation avoidance agreements and will inform him. We will not harass him. He can then file his undisclosed assets under the Income Tax Act," he said.
The Revenue Department would come out with a second set of FAQs on the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 to clarify the provisions of the law, he added.
The department had earlier issued the rules and the first set of FAQs on the new law, which has come into force from July 1, provides a 90-day compliance window to help people holding unaccounted assets abroad to come clean by paying 60 per cent tax and penalty.
Black Money law is based on principle of rule of law and is transparent, objective and is a fair law, he said, adding that the compliance window in the new Act is not an amnesty programme.
The Tax Department had kept secret the names the persons who had disclosed assets under the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) which was announced in 1996. Das said such confidentiality would also be maintained in case of new black money law.
Government was very clear in its mind that the law has to be effective and meaningful, Das said, adding since certain provisions of the Act are stringent.
"The law is based on the principle of rule of law, law is not arbitrary and leaves nothing to chance. Law is non-discretionary," he said.
Speaking at the workshop, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairperson Anita Kapur said although the I-T Act has been in operation for years, but the problem of black money had persisted and hence there was a need to come out with a more stringent law.
Kapur said that the black money law has generated a lot of controversy and hence the CBDT had decided to go out and conduct workshops with ICAI to understand the doubts. The next workshop will be held in Mumbai on August 26.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) President Manoj Fadnis said with more clarity coming in on the black money law the compliance window is expected to be a great success.