Once again stressing that the government is serious about tracking down illicit wealth stashed away in tax havens, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday that India will seek to amend double taxation avoidance treaties with other countries to allow for exchange of information on tax evaders.
"With a large number of countries, I have instructed my office to renegotiate the clause for exchanging information in the avoidance of double taxation agreement. This is almost with every country," Mukherjee told journalists at an Indian Women Press Corps function.
This was a follow-up to the decision of the G20 leaders earlier this year to "discipline" tax havens, he added. India will start talks with the Swiss government in December to get information on tax defaulters who have allegedly stashed huge amounts in Swiss banks, Mukherjee said.
However, he clarified that any details revealed by the Swiss authorities would not be open to public scrutiny. "Information will be related to only tax collection, not for any other purpose. Not even for publicity or sharing information with anybody, but only to facilitate the tax authority to collect the taxes from the defaulters," he said.
India began the process of revising the tax treaty with Mauritius well before the financial crisis, said the minister. "The Mauritius prime minister said that he has some problems. We have agreed to compensate him. Talks are to begin on that line," he said.
On the divestment of government stake in public sector companies – another subject on the top of reporters' minds - Mukherjee expressed confidence that he could manage differences among some allies over the disinvestment policy of the UPA government.
"I have managed all the coalition partners for the last five years. I will handle the situation in the same manner as I have done it in the past," he said. The Trinamool Congress led by railway minister Mamata Banerjee and the DMK led by M Karunanidhi reportedly opposed to privatisation of government-owned enterprises at the full meeting of the Planning Commission in August.