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I-T Dept told to focus on non-salaried evaders

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The Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, the Secretary-Expenditure, Mr D. Swaroop, and the Minister of State for Finance, Mr S.S. Palanimanickam, at a conference of Chief Commissioners and Director-Generals of Income Tax in the Capital on Monday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , July 26

THE Chief Commissioners of Income-Tax (CCITs) may well pay heed to the advice of the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, who now wants each one of them to don the cap of a chief executive officer (CEO) for bringing in more "clients" to the tax department.

"Every taxpayer should be your client. You should take the role of a CEO. Just as a CEO looks for new business and new clients, you should bring new clients. Your performance would now be measured from the standpoint of the number of new clients that you enrol", informed sources quoted Mr Chidambaram as saying at the inaugural session of the 20th conference of CCITs and Director General of Income-Tax (DGIT) here on Monday.

The Finance Minister, who preferred to see the exit of the invited media before sharing his views with top officials of the tax department, also pointed out that there was a whole world of non-salaried tax evaders out there who were enjoying grand lifestyles without coming under the tax net.

Mr Chidambaram even advised CCITs to identify, over the next two days, the various expenditures on lifestyle products that could then be used to spot potential taxpayers and tax evaders.

The Minister reeled out statistical data on the Indian tourist traffic flying out of the country each year, the first-class passengers using foreign airlines, the number of new vehicle owners — especially luxury segment cars — to show that there was enough room to add more taxpayers into income-tax net. He also highlighted that, in a large country such as India, there are only about 75,000 taxpayers offering a taxable income of Rs 10 lakh and above.

Mr Chidambaram is understood to have asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to chalk out an action plan to recover the "tidy sum" (about Rs 7,000 cr-Rs 8,000 cr) from the recoverable undisputed arrears on the direct tax front. Total direct tax arrears, including those under dispute at various stages, is estimated at about Rs 87,800 crore.

Stating that targets would be distributed to the CCITs, Mr Chidambaram held that the degree of recoverability was high at the level of Commissioner (Appeals).

The Finance Minister also indicated his intention to approach the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justices of various High Courts and request them to take up big cases on taxes quickly. As part of a multi-pronged approach to recover arrears, the Government may also come with a media campaign.

Mr Chidambaram also promised support for improving the infrastructure needs of the tax department. On scrutiny of the returns filed for assessment, he made it clear that mere dependence on a computer to decide on the cases that would be taken up for scrutiny is not enough. He held that a system needed to be evolved whereby information can be analysed on a real time basis and notorious tax evaders brought under the tax net.

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