No data on Swiss bank money, says govt

Responding to queries by RTI activist Subash Chandra Agarwal, the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance said efforts had been made from time to time to seek details of Indian account holders from the Swiss government under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between the two countries.
The reply said the Swiss Federal Tax Administration has expressed its inability to exchange the information regarding bank deposits of Indian residents as the information was not necessary for the application of DTAA between the two countries but was required only for enforcement of India's internal laws.

The Swiss authority also replied that such information was not at its disposal under the country's laws in the normal course of tax administration. “However, the protocol revisiting the existing DTAA between India and Switzerland has been recently signed which inter-alia seeks to amend the article concerning exchange of information by which India could obtain banking information in specific cases for prospective information,” the revenue department said in its reply.

In answer to another query, the revenue department said the division dealing with exchange of information with foreign tax authorities under DTAA does not have any information or database regarding all foreign banks involved in stashing India's money.

It said the banking information from various countries with which India has DTAA is sought when requested in prescribed proforma by the filed authorities.  “Whenever any such information is received, it is subjected to confidentiality provisions of DTAA and may only be used for the tax purposes specified therein and hence exempted from disclosure under sections 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(f) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the revenue department said.

About Agarwal's queries relating to sale and consumption of gold, including its unaccounted trade, the Foreign Tax and Tax Research-I Division said that the questions did not pertain to the division. About the German government offering help in revealing details of account holders from India, the Department of Revenue said that following persistent efforts of the government, the German Federal Central Tax Office provided information in March 2009 about Indian taxpayers who had accounts with LGT bank in Liechtenstein in the CD (compact disc) available with them.

“The information received from German authorities was passed on to the respective income tax authorities for getting necessary action taken under the relevant provisions of Income Tax Act 1961 and Wealth Tax Act, 1957,” the reply said. Agarwal said he had appealed to the Central Public Information Officer of concerned division of the Department of Revenue to transfer his unanswered questions to the appropriate public authority. He said information about file notings of his RTI application should also be provided.  

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