A day after the RBI’s report revealed that 99 per cent of demonetised currency had come back into the banking system, the Finance Ministry on Thursday claimed that the note ban’s benefits were clearly visible in terms of a quantum jump in enforcement actions and growth in direct tax collections.
“The government launched a concerted drive against black money with demonetisation being an important step in that direction. Among the main objectives of demonetisation was the flushing out of black money and also conversion of the non-formal economy into a formal economy to expand the tax base,” the Finance Ministry said here in a statement.
The statement said that enforcement actions based on the demonetisation data got a major push in number of searches, seizures and admission of undisclosed income.
The Income Tax Department launched ‘Operation Clean Money’ on January 31 to analyse the data of the persons who deposited large sums of cash and whose returns of income were not in sync with such deposits.
In the first phase, 18 lakh suspect cases were identified through use of data analytics where cash transactions did not appear to be in line with the tax profile of depositors. “Online verification in these cases was enabled and done in a record time of four weeks,” it said.
“The scale of the operation may be gauged from the fact that response of 9.72 lakh persons in respect of 13.33 lakh accounts involving cash deposits of around Rs 2.89 lakh crore, as per pre-defined parameters on sources of the cash deposits was captured by the Income Tax Department. Online queries were raised in more than 35,000 cases and online verification was completed in more than 7,800 cases,” it added.
Phase two of the ‘Operation Clean Money’ includes enforcement actions in high risk cases, taxpayer engagement through a dedicated website in medium risk cases and close monitoring in low risk cases.
“The high, medium and low risk cases have been identified through use of advanced data analytics, including integration of data sources, relationship clustering and fund tracking. The exercise has also unearthed a large number of persons and clusters having suspect transactions. These include about 14,000 properties of more than Rs 1 crore each where persons have not even filed income tax returns. The investigations are in progress,” the statement noted.
On the impact on widening of tax base, the ministry said that the number of e-returns of individual taxpayers filed till August 5 increased to 2.79 crore from 2.22 crore returns filed during the corresponding period of last year, registering an increase of about 57 lakh returns (25.3 per cent).
“This shows marked improvement in the level of voluntary compliance as a result of action taken by the Income Tax Department on the basis of data of cash deposits in the wake of demonetisation,” it said.
The total number of all returns filed during 2016-17 was 5.43 crore, which is 17.3 per cent more than the returns filed during 2015-16.
For 2016-17, 1.26 crore new taxpayers were added to the tax base till June 30, it said.
The effect of demonetisation is also clearly visible in the growth in direct tax collections, the statement said.
Collection of advance tax under personal income tax as on August 5 showed a growth of about 41.79 per cent over the corresponding period in 2016-17 while the collection of self-assessment tax under personal income tax showed a growth of 34.25 per cent over the corresponding period in 2016-2017.