To help in its efforts to crack down on suspected black money stashed abroad, India has entered into an information exchange pact with Saint Kitts and Nevis, a two-island Carribean country, perceived as a safe haven for offshore funds.
The agreement was signed by India's Permanent Representative to the UN Asoke Kumar Mukerji, and his counterpart from Saint Kitts and Nevis Ambassador Delano Frank Bart at the Indian mission.
The agreement is modelled on other tax information exchange agreements and would cover taxes imposed by both the countries, the Indian mission said in a statement.
It would include information relevant to administration of domestic tax laws of each countries in terms of assessment, tax claims and prosecution. The agreement would also encompass information on banking details, ownership information of companies and information relevant to administration of domestic laws and taxes in both the countries.
While Switzerland has been the focus of India's fight against suspected black money stashed abroad, various agencies and investigations have pointed out large-scale instances of illicit funds having been channelised abroad through various offshore locations widely known as tax havens.
A number of island nations in Carribean and other parts of the world figure among such locations. However, many such locations, including Saint Kitts and Nevis, have agreed in recent years to improve business practices within their jurisdictions and come clean of such charges.
India has also signed information exchange pacts on tax matters with a number of such locations including Bahamas, Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, British Virgin Islands, Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Jersey, Macau, Liberia, Argentina, Guernsey and Monaco, among others.
A Special Investigation Team is currently looking into the black money issue, including the cases related to untaxed money stashed abroad by Indians.
In one of its reports recently submitted to the government, the SIT, however, observed that absence of criminal legal treaties between India and tax haven nations is one of the major impediments in initiating steps to bring back illegal funds stashed abroad by Indians.
India has 37 Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties or Multilateral Assistance Treaties with about 37 countries which does not include "many of the tax havens like Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Bermuda, Malta, British Virgin Islands and others" where a number of suspect black money probes are being conducted by Indian investigative agencies.
SIT has been informed by various agencies that the existing treaties like Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and Tax Information Exchange Treaty (TIEA) were not helpful.
These treaties provide only for collection of documents and does not help in attachment or restraint of funds or assets of a suspect black money holder from India.