As part of efforts to fight black money, the government has decided to double the strength of the crucial foreign tax division in Finance Ministry which handles classified tax related information between India, tax haven nations and other countries.
The Ministry recently gave approval for creating a new unit in the Foreign Tax and Tax Research (FT and TR) division under the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) which will be headed by a senior Income Tax department officer and two under secretary rank officers.
The division acts as a post office for communication between law enforcement agencies on both sides in cases of suspect tax evasion, mis-pricing and international transactions.
Prior to this, the FT and TR division was recently sanctioned two new units, with two senior IT officers as directors and four new officials in the rank of under secretary.
"Now that India is renegotiating more than 70 DTAAs and a host of tax exchange information treaties with countries from all parts of the globe, it was necessary to bolster the mechanism at the FT and TR division. The division has never seen so much work before," a senior Finance Ministry official said.
The FT and TR division till now had two directors but with these new inductions, the wing will have a total of five directors and a number of other officials who will have access to Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) generated by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
"The FT and TR division is also bringing out a new proforma for the I-T department for obtaining such information including bank details of suspect entities from foreign shores," the official said.
While 75 Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with various countries have been picked up for re-negotiation by India, the same has been completed with 22 countries while an equal number of Tax Information Exchange Treaties (TIEAs) have also been negotiated till now.
The ministry has also decided to set up an exclusive Exchange of Information (EoI) cell under the FT and TR division which can be approached by I-T sleuths from across the country to obtain information from abroad on illegal funds after they detect such instances in their regions.
The FT and TR division will also liaise with other investigative agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for obtaining information from foreign countries in money laundering and corruption related cases that they are probing.
India, according to the Finance Ministry, has so far received over 9,900 pieces of information from several countries regarding suspicious transactions by Indian citizens, which are now under different stages of processing and investigation.
A similar treaty with Switzerland has already been ratified and the DTAA with Mauritius is under re-negotiation.