Foreign Nations Help Dig Deeper into Black Money Data

Germany, France, Switzerland, Singapore, Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands are among those that are providing info or will soon start doing so India has found global allies in its fight against black money. Germany, France, Switzerland, Singapore, Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands are among those that are providing information, or will soon start doing so, on assets held by Indians, helping the Narendra Modi government in its campaign to crack down on unaccounted wealth.

“We are able to pierce through multiple layers... as a number of tax jurisdictions are now helping with data flow,“ said a finance ministry official. The freer exchange of financial information, thanks to accords such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) with the US, will help identify tax evaders who didn't come clean during the grace period that ended September 30.

Singapore, which has strong business links with India, is passing on data. Mauritius, which has signed a global information-sharing protocol, will soon start providing access. France has been actively helping India dig deeper into data on the HSBC accounts it had provided earlier.

The government has said it will pursue offenders after the onetime compliance window closed.The finance ministry, on Monday, Rs.4,147 revised total declarations to ` crore from Rs.3,770 estimated earlier, though the number of cases remained the same at 638.

Germany had stopped sharing information after names of ac count holders in Lichtenstein Bank that it had handed over to the government were made public. But it has resumed the supply of such data. Both countries are renegotiating their tax treaty to have a more robust informationsharing arrangement. “We are getting a good response“ from the British Virgin Islands, said the official. This began after an Indian delegation visited the country in January.

This is a popular destination for black money due to the complicated structures that its financial firms specialise in. Switzerland is changing its laws to allow inquiries into stolen data as well, making possible investigations in cases where the government may have got the information through non-official channels.

Ask Companies to Identify Their Real Owners

With effective information-sharing, the ability of Indians to hide their assets overseas will disappear fast. Sure, diplomacy helps. But like the US, India should negotiate with tax havens better, to secure even past information. From 2017, most countries will automatically exchange information on tax-evaders.This will make it easier for India to establish audit trails on complex deals. However, the government should also mandate companies to identify their real owners and make the registry public. We must pull out all the stops to fight black money.

The Economic Times, New Delhi, 7th Oct. 2015

53008 Times Visited