The government on Tuesday made it clear that it held out no assurance of absolute confidentiality to those voluntarily disclosing foreign assets, and that details of information provided during the one-time compliance window can be revealed in the public interest.
"In this (black money) law, there is no assurance of confidentiality but at the same time there is a provision that Section 138 of the I-T Act, which is basically a confidentiality provision, that is the information of individual tax payer will be kept confidential. However, the Department in public interest can declare it," revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das said.
He, however, said the department will not disclose the information without reason.
"By and large the information would be kept confidential. Under the new law, it is not the case that we will put up a public notice that so and so have availed the benefit and paid tax," he said.
The revenue secretary made these remarks in a 'talkathon' organised by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on the black money law, along with chair of the central board of direct taxes (CBDT) Anita Kapur.
"The revenue department would come out with a second set of FAQs on the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 to clarify the provisions of the law," Das said.
The department had earlier issued the rules and the first set of FAQs on the new law, which has come into force from 1 July and provides a 90-day compliance window to help people holding unaccounted assets abroad to come clean by paying 60 per cent tax and penalty.
Das dismissed the apprehension that people owning undeclared assets were leaving the country and said it would be difficult for anyone to run away from the "long arm of the law" as the whole international community is taking concerted steps to check tax evasion.
Seeking to allay fears that the tax department would start a greater scrutiny after someone avails a disclosure window, Das said, "The officer will not go on a roving enquiry or a fishing expedition to find out if there is something more about that person.
"The government will start getting information from different countries under the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) from 2017", he said, adding that the tax department will get to know whenever domestic black money is taken abroad.
Answering question on the steps taken to deal with the information received about account holders in Swiss bank from the French Government, Das said the Income Tax department has slapped 122 cases for prosecution of those entities whose names have appeared in the list.
Kapur clarified that the law will cover "all past sins" and the provisions of the Act will apply to assets acquired in the past.
She said the tax department has already introduced changes in Income Tax Act in 2012 under which persons are required to disclose their overseas income and so far 25,000-30,000 people have declared such assets which they legitimately own.
Kapur said persons working abroad who have come and settled in India can declare their assets and income from overseas assets under the I-T Act.
"However, those having undisclosed assets, they have been given an opportunity to come clean and if they do not take advantage, they will have to face the consequences which include tax and penalty of 120 per cent and jail term extending up to 10 ten years", she said.
Kapur further said that revenue department will not ask for source of income from those taking advantage of the compliance window but warned that declaration could be declared illegal if found that the assets were acquired from the proceeds of crime.
"Given that information flow will begin from 2017, it will be in the interest of tax payer to come clean, pay tax and penalty and have a good night sleep," Das said.