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Rediff.com  » Business » Swiss info on black money: India may have to wait till 2012

Swiss info on black money: India may have to wait till 2012

Last updated on: January 25, 2011 06:36 IST

Swiss info on black money: India may have to wait till 2012

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Bijay Shankar Patel in New Delhi


India may have to wait till at least next year for information from Switzerland on possible black money trail to Swiss banks, as a treaty for the same might come into force only by the end of 2011.

The treaty needs to be ratified by various authorities in India as also in Switzerland, including the Parliament of the European nation, and it might come into force by the end of 2011 depending on these approvals, a spokesperson for the Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance told PTI.

If all these ratifications are achieved by 2011-end, the provisions of the treaty, which includes information exchange about suspected tax evaders and other financial offenders, would come into effect in India from the fiscal year beginning on or after first day of April 2012, the official said.

This means that India would be able to seek information on tax evasion and other financial offences on incomes for the fiscal year 2012-13 beginning April 1, 2012, onwards and not for the past periods, experts said.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Still, it is unlikely that the names of Indians having money in Swiss banks would be made public, as being demanded by the opposition parties, because such a step would not only be in breach of the bilateral treaty, but could also hinder the process of investigations, they added.

In Switzerland, the provisions would come into effect for fiscal year beginning on or after January 1 of the year following the one when treaty comes into force, the Swiss Finance Department official said.

Indian government is facing intense pressure from the opposition parties, as also the Supreme Court, on issue of black money allegedly stashed away by some Indians in Swiss banks and other tax havens.

The issue of Indians having secret Swiss bank accounts has become a political hot potato, amid reports of Indians having billions of dollars in banks in Switzerland. But, there are no official figures as such and experts believe that it was not necessary that all the funds deposited by Indians in Swiss banks were black money.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Swiss Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey signed a 'protocol' on August 30, 2010 to amend the double taxation agreement (DTA) in the area of taxes on income.

The revised tax treaty was expected to facilitate the Indian government seeking details about illicit wealth allegedly stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks.

However, this Protocol has not entered into force yet and needs to be ratified by the authorities in two countries.

Asked about the status, the Swiss Federal Department of Finance official said that one of the parliament commissions in charge of the DTAs last week decided to approve the DTA with India and the parliamentary approval process was expected to come to an end by September 2011.

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"So, the plenum of the lower chamber of the Parliament will soon decide on it. Three months later, the higher chamber will take a decision. Probably, by the end of summer 2011, the DTA with India will be approved by the Swiss institutions," the Swiss official added.

"Depending on the process of approval in India, the DTA may come into force by the end of 2011," the spokesperson said in reply to emailed queries by PTI.

If the DTA comes into force by 2011-end, the official said, "its provisions shall have effect in India, in respect of income arising in any fiscal year beginning on or after the first day of April next following the calendar year in which the Amending Protocol entered into force."

On the other hand, the provisions will become effective in Switzerland, in respect of income arising in any fiscal year beginning on or after the first day of January next following the calendar year in which the protocol enters into force.

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Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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As per the initial agreement signed between the two countries in August 2010, the information exchange was expected to take effect on January 1.

"This Protocol has not entered into force yet, since the governments of the Contracting States have not notified each other through diplomatic channels that all legal requirements and procedures for giving effect to the Amending Protocol have been satisfied," the Swiss official had earlier said.

The revised tax treaty agreement was reached after months of negotiations, even as the Swiss banks have said that they would not permit "fishing expeditions" -- meaning unwarranted and indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting.

The Swiss Bankers Association have previously said that any information exchange would be according to the conditions set out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the grouping of mostly developed nations, and the information being sought should be specific in nature.

As per the revised treaty, Switzerland would now provide administrative assistance in tax evasion cases also, in addition to the tax fraud cases applicable earlier.


Photographs: Reuters
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