After real estate, it is the turn of infrastructure companies to face the government’s heat on black money.
Revenue department officials have found that highway developers typically under-report toll revenues, and generate a substantial amount of black money.
The government has now decided to carry out surprise drives at toll collection centres to obtain an accurate estimate of traffic volumes and the money collected. A database would be built that would ensure fair and accurate reporting of highway toll.
“These drives will help us get empirical toll collection data which can be cross-checked with the data reported by these developers in their books,” a revenue department source told HT.
Under reporting – the practice of recording less collections than actual – generate black money at various levels. First, the unreported toll becomes illicit money. Next, tax is paid on the lower revenues. If true figures are reported, tax officials said, many loss-making companies would start reflecting profits.
Finally, in revenue-sharing projects, under-reporting results lower share for the government.
A senior highway ministry official said, “Apart from black money, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in case of under reporting gets less share where it is in a revenue share model…. Once a mechanism to check the unaccounted money is in place, even NHAI’s revenues will also increase.”
Tracking traffic movement at toll-plazas is a complicated business. There are global agencies that specialise in this, and specialised equipment is also available. Some toll plazas have cameras, but usually the footage is unreliable.
Experts say such a move would help the highway ministry as well. Vishwas Udgirkar, senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, said if actual traffic data is obtained, it would become easy to discover when the project cost has been fully recovered.