Faced with criticism over the proposed amendments to tax laws with retrospective effect, the government may dilute the provisions to allow waiver of penalties on tax demands to be raised on Vodafone-like acquisitions involving domestic assets.
"Adding a clause to allow waiver of penalty for deals which took place before April 1, 2012 is being considered by the government," a senior finance ministry official said.
Once the changes go through, Vodafone could be an immediate beneficiary as it won't have to pay about Rs. 7,900 crore penalty. However, it would still have to pay an interest of about Rs. 4,500 crore.
Vodafone, in any case, can approach Income Tax Settlement Commission to seek waiver of penalty, but in that case it would have to deposit the demanded tax along with interest.
The Income Tax Department had raised a Rs. 11,000 crore tax demand from Vodafone for its acquisition of Hutchison stake in Hutchison-Essar in 2007 through a deal in Cayman islands. But the Supreme Court struck down the tax claim.
Following the Supreme Court judgement, the government in the Finance Bill, 2012 has proposed amendments in the Income-tax Act, 1961, with retrospective effect to bring in tax net overseas mergers and acquisitions involving Indian assets.
After Parliament's nod, the amended Income-tax Act, 1961 will become operational from April 1, 2012. The move may fetch Rs. 35,000-40,000 crore tax revenue for the government.
The Bill would be taken up for consideration and passage by Parliament next week.
Global business chambers including Confederation of British Industry, US Council for International Business and Japan Foreign Trade Council have sought reconsideration of the amendment proposals saying such a move would impact investments in India.
Worried over the impact of the proposed retrospective amendment on the company, Dutch unit of Vodafone had served a legal notice to the government threatening to drag India to international arbitration on the issue.
Vodafone Group global CEO Vittorio Colao had called on finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday to present the company's case to the government.