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Now, bank deposits since Nov 8 may attract 60% income tax

The Union Cabinet late on Thursday cleared a proposal to amend the Income Tax (I-T) Act to levy close to 60% deduction on unaccounted deposits in banks above a threshold, said sources.

The decision was purportedly prompted by a surge in deposits about ~20,000 crore, according to some reports in Jan Dhan accounts since November 8, when the central government announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. The amount deposited in this period is almost 50% of the total deposits in these accounts in the two years since their launch. The move is also aimed at preventing black money holders from circumventing existing I-T Act provisions.

Also, earlier in the day, the government, facing severe attacks over difficulties in implementing demonetisation, extended till December 15 the facility of using old Rs 500 notes in public utilities and included more services such as mobile recharge but stopped the over-the-counter exchange of defunct currencies and use of Rs 1,000 notes.
Payment towards pre-paid mobile top-up to a limit of Rs 500 per recharge has been allowed while purchase from consumer cooperative stores will be limited to Rs 5,000 at a time, an official release said. Also, payment of fees up to Rs 2,000 per student has been allowed in schools and colleges run by central and states governments, municipalities and local bodies.

Current and arrears dues payments will be limited to only water and electricity, a facility that will continue to be available only for individuals and households. However, the release said payments for the transactions under all the exempted categories will now be accepted only through old Rs 500 notes.

"Considering that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways have continued the toll free arrangement at the toll plazas up to December 2, it has been decided that toll payment at these toll plazas may be made through old Rs 500 notes from December 3 to December 15," it said.

Foreign citizens will now be permitted to exchange foreign currency up to Rs 5,000 per week. Necessary entry to this effect will be made in their passports, it said.

Explaining the reason for discontinuance of exchange of the defunct notes, the release said it has been observed that over-the-counter exchange of the old notes has shown a declining trend.

The Cabinet decision was called in the late evening.

Its reported decision was also significant since the current provision of 30% tax and 200% penalty could be circumvented by those who may deposit black money but pay tax in advance. In that case, imposing a penalty could become a vexed issue under the current I-T Act.

There was no official briefing on what transpired in the meeting as Parliament was in session.

However, sources said the government was keen to tax all unaccounted money deposited in bank accounts in denominations of old currency notes from November 10.

Earlier, officials said a 30-per cent tax plus a 200-per cent penalty on top of a possible prosecution in cases where black money holders took advantage of the 50-day window. This means a 90-per cent tax on black money holders.

However, there were lacunae in this as black money holders can pay advance tax on their deposits and file it in their returns. In that case, penalty could not be levied in the strict sense as it was for misreported or underreported income.

Sources said the government plans to bring an amendment to the Income Tax Act during the current winter session of Parliament.