“There is no such proposal to modify income tax returns forms,” a finance ministry official said, in response to reports on expansion of statement of financial transactions (SFT) requiring taxpayers to provide the details in income tax returns. “Taxpayers would not need to mention high-value transactions in her return herself.”
Officials clarified that only third parties would report high-value transactions to the income tax department as per the Income Tax Act. The information would be used to identify people who are not paying up due taxes, and not for examining affairs of honest taxpayers, they said.
“The information will be used to identify those who are either not filing the returns or the income disclosed in the returns are not proportionate to the pattern of expenditure reported in the SFTs,” the official said.
Data analytics and artificial intelligence will be used for this, instead of manual intervention. Terming the method as most ‘non-intrusive’, the official said it would be used for identifying those who spend big money on business class air travel, foreign travel and expensive hotels or send their children to expensive schools, but do not pay taxes, claiming their income to be under Rs 2.5 lakh a year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged this very issue on Thursday, and asked people to pay their fair share of taxes, given that the country’s tax base was relatively small. “Only 1.5 crore people pay taxes in a country of 130 crores,” he pointed out while launching a taxpayer’s charter and faceless assessment, aimed at improving transparency in tax administration.
“No doubt, the third-party reporting of high-value transactions made by such non-filers would allow the department to nudge such persons to file their returns and pay their due tax,” the official said.