'Will act against tax evasion, slap no levy on farm earnings'
Replying to the discussion on the Finance Bill 2016 in the Lok Sabha, he also ruled out withdrawal of the 1 per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery, a demand that was made by opposition Congress and ruling NDA constituent Shiv Sena.
The Minister said the government will act tough against those found to holding illegal offshore accounts as revealed in the Panama Papers leak under the recently passed stringent blackmoney law. In his hour-long reply, the Minister dwelt at length on the challenges facing the Indian economy and said the government will work to resolve the NPA problem of banks.
After the reply, the House passed the Finance Bill that marks the culmination of the three-stage budgetary process in the Lok Sabha. The Bill will now go to Rajya Sabha. "There are two categories. One is honest agricultural income. You may have a large income which is a separate case. That is a rare case. But there are some cases where people are passing off income from other sources as agriculture income. "That is a case of evasion. That will be dealt with under the law. That the assessing officer can deal with," he said. Jaitley said there was no proposal to tax agriculture income.
"This cateogry of people earning from agriculture in crores is very little. In any case, please remember, under the Constitution of India, the Centre has no power. It is a State subject."
The remarks assume significance in the context of a recent discussion on the issue in Rajya Sabha where Jaitley had warned Congress leaders not to cry political vendetta if he were to disclose those hiding other income as agri income. Ruling out roll back of one per cent excise duty levied on non-silver jewellery, Jaitley took jibe at the Congress for its hatred for "suits" but love gold.
"I am unable to understand this politics, this economics where you hate suits but are in love with gold," he said adding the duty was not targeted at small traders and artisans but would be levied only on jewellers with Rs 12 crore turnover in a year. To settle disputes, the Budget proposed 45 per cent tax instead of regular 30 per cent for income that may have escaped assessment. Also, to companies facing retrospective taxation, an option has been given to them to pay principal amount and interest and penalty would be foregone.The Minister said this year 33 taxation officers including 7 belonging to Group A were compulsorily retired and 72 including 6 of Group A dismissed. "Discretion of officers is not the only thing being reduced but action was also being taken against them," he said.
On the Panama Papers leak, he said tax notices have gone to all the names of those holding offshore accounts that have been disclosed and action will be taken against those illegally parking money abroad. Jaitley attacked the 1997 voluntary disclosure of income scheme (VDIS) as the "most ill-advised" as it allowed undeclared asset holders to pay just 30 per cent tax without any penalty or interest on the 1987 value of gold and jewellery.
Economy can grow faster if there is good monsoon: Arun jaitley
Already the fastest growing major economy in the world, India can grow at an even faster pace this year if predictions of good monsoon hold up, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday. Replying to a debate on the Finance Bill 2016 which was later passed in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley ruled out rollback of one per cent excise on non-silver jewellery saying the levy was not applicable on small traders and artisans and only jewellers with more than Rs 12 crore turnover will attract the duty.
"I have not been able to understand the politics of hatred for 'suit' but love for gold," he said as he took potshots at Congress which is opposing the levy of excise duty on gold and other previous jewellery. If the Congress had objections to the levy, it can begin by removing the 5 per cent VAT on bullion in Kerala where it rules, he said. Jaitley, who moved some amendments to the Finance Bill introduced by him on February 28 along with demands for grants and appropriation bill, listed out measures taken by the BJP government in last two years to give relief to small tax payers and reduce tax litigation. On blackmoney, he said government efforts have brought to the books Rs 71,000 crore of undisclosed assets.
He however ruled out bringing agriculture income under the tax net, saying large farm-based income was rare and people using agriculture as front to hide income from other sources would be dealt with tax authorities. The Bill, which is the penultimate part of the budget exercise, was passed with the amendments by voice vote. While the global outlook remains bleak, Jaitley said India remains the fastest growing major economy in the world. "But we recognise we have the potential to grow at an even faster pace," he said.