The move came in view of a PIL filed in the Patna HC where concerns have been raised that some of these declarants could be engaged in routing their illegal funds.
Metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru have the most ‘crorepatis’ who have declared agricultural income of over Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) in the past nine assessment years.
The income tax department is conducting a probe.
According to official data, between assessment years 2008-09 and 2015-16, 321 assesses declared agricultural wealth over Rs 1 crore in Bengaluru, followed by Delhi (275), Kolkata (239), Mumbai (212), Pune (192), Chennai (181), Hyderabad (162), Thiruvananthapuram (157) and Kochi (109).
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in Parliament on Tuesday that many prominent people are being probed for allegedly concealing taxable income as agricultural earnings as he told the Opposition not to term it as political victimisation if their names come out.
IT department assessing officers across the country, as part of a recent directive, have been asked to “verify” a select number of cases in this category under AYs 2011-12 to 2013-14.
The move came in view of a PIL filed in the Patna High Court where concerns have been raised that some of these declarants could be engaged in routing their unaccounted or illegal funds in the “garb” of farm income, thereby leading to instances of money laundering.
The official data in this regard said a total of 2,746 entities have declared agricultural income of above Rs 1 crore in the last nine AYs, between 2007-08 to 2015-16 and a probe has to be conducted for a block period of three AYs (2011-12 to 2013-14).
The department suspects that in many cases where declarants have claimed tax exemption under this category could either be because of a data entry error on their part or a genuine case of tax evasion.
“The taxman has been directed to only probe those cases between AY 2011-12 to 2013-14 which have been selected for scrutiny, based on red flag indicators. A report has to be sent to the Central Board of Direct Taxes by March 20 and it will be subsequently presented to the Patna High Court for further action,” a senior official said.
The entire exercise is being undertaken to verify the “genuineness” of the agricultural income claim made by these individuals and entities, he said.