NEW DELHI: Tax defaulters cannot hope to get away lightly, any longer. The income tax department initiated prosecution in close to 7,700 cases during 2017-18, an over three-fold jump compared to the previous year.
Similarly, there was a near four-fold rise in the prosecution cases filed in court, which added up to over 4,500 in 2017-18 compared to 1,252 in the previous year, data accessed by TOI showed.
The efforts have resulted in conviction of 75 tax evaders during the last financial year, compared to 16 in the previous year.
In the past, the government was lenient in chasing those who did not pay taxes although a tax demand had been raised. Or in several cases, individuals who had to file returns got away without actually doing so.
“If you want voluntary compliance in 99% of the cases then you have to target those who are not following the law. In other countries, you cannot get away after committing serious tax offences,” a senior tax officer told TOI. Sources said that in a number of cases, people were not even afraid of searches and used them to clear their liability. Further, there were several instances where tax was deducted at source (TDS) but the amount was not deducted. “This is a serious offence and we are taking it very seriously,” another officer said.
As a result, the government is now focusing on cases where there is “wilful attempt” to evade taxes or penalty with even late returns and false statements are under the scanner.
Prosecution was a key agenda point in last year’s action plan, along with compounding in case of less serious offences and the department is expected to retain the focus during the current financial year as well.