Tax defaulters beware. The income tax department is considering publishing the names of habitual tax defaulters with large tax demands pending. According to official sources, the department is planning to compile a list of all cases, where there is a tax demand of over Rs 1 crore with no pending appeals. The information, along with names of the defaulters, will then be published in newspapers or other media. The defaulters will include both individual as well as corporate assessees. While the proposal is yet to get approved, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is confident of its likely utility.
“Once their names are out in public domain, we expect most of these defaulters to pay their arrears simply out of shame. More importantly, we feel that it will also discourage people from evading taxes as they too would fear that their names could get published,” an official said.
The CBDT is in fact empowered under section 287 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to publish names of defaulters. “If the Central government is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient in the public interest to publish the names of any assessees and any other particulars relating to any proceedings [or prosecutions] under this Act in respect of such assessees, it may cause to be published such names and particulars in such manner as it thinks fit,” the act states.
While the department has not made any estimates of the amount of pending arrears they’ll be able to recover, the move could bring in big money. As per the Budget document, Rs 33,034 crore of undisputed tax revenues over a 10-year period is yet to be collected by the department. Of this, Rs 16,200 crore is corporate tax demands, Rs 16,834 crore is unrealised income tax.
The names of top tax defaulters occasionally come out in public domain, through questions raised in Parliament or state legislatures, but this is the first time that the CBDT is thinking of publishing an all-India list.
The move is necessitated to some extent because of the low growth in direct tax collections. In a year when the CBDT is expected to collect an unprecedented Rs 4 lakh crore, direct tax receipts during the first seven months of the current fiscal grew a mere 3.92% to Rs 1,73,447 crore.