It is a well-recognized fact that there exists in India a parallel economy based entirely on black money transactions. Black money, also described as tainted money, has seeped into every walk of life and is posing a great threat to the stability of our real economy. The most unfortunate aspect is that it has come to be accepted as normal fact of life. People hardly feel say qualms of conscience while dealing with it. In their jaundiced eyes, the black appears to be bright and beautiful.
The problem of tax-evasion and black money cannot merely be looked upon as an anti-social activity or an unlawful activity. It is rather, like a cancer in the country’s economy which, if not checked in time, will ruin the country’s economy. One of the worst consequences of black-money and tax-evasion-is their pernicious effect on the moral fiber of our society which puts a premium on dishonesty and shatters the faith of the common man in the dignity of honest labour and lawful living. Black-money results in the functioning of a parallel economy in the country. The problem, therefore, needs immediate attention.
Black money in economic terms means ‘unrecorded gains’. In other words, it is income which has escaped taxation. It may be hoarded in cash, but eventually gets itself converted into various assets like property, jeweler and durable consumer goods.
Various estimates have been made regarding the quantity of black-money in circulation. It is estimated that the amount of black-money has reached over Rs. 20,000 crores. The black-money has now assumed vast dimensions and menacing proportions. It has been engaging the attention of the Government and the public.
Black-money arises due to various reasons. Some of those reasons are :
(1) The main cause of black-money is unrealistically high rates of taxes which strain human nature. India is today “the highest taxed nation”, one eminent authority put it, “in so far as the rates of taxes are concerned, because no country in the world penalizes honest work and endeavour as ruthlessly as India does.”
(2) Tax-laws in country are so complicated that a layman fails to understand it. Even honest assesses are unable to file correct returns. This encourages people to evade tax.
(3) Another cause of black-money is numerous controls, licenses and other governmental regulations it is no exaggeration to say that the controls, licensing and permit system has made black money indispensable to businessmen. Not only do import licenses command a high premium in the black market, but the licensing system has led to corruption at all levels.
(4) Black money also arises from political activities such as elections where candidates spend well above the ceiling prescribed by the Election Commission. This huge expenses in turn makes them corrupt.
(5) Black money also arises from illegal activities like smuggling, drug-peddling.
(6) Perhaps the most important reason of tax-evasion and black-money is the genera! deterioration in the moral and civic standards of our people.
Our businessmen employ very ingenious methods to generate black-money. Large amounts of black-money can be generated through the sale of fixed assets and scrap. Sometimes influential firms obtain quotas or import licenses in excess of their actual requirements and sell them at cash premiums. Industrial manufacturing licenses are similarly obtained through influences and sold to a second party at an enhanced value. Purchase bills ore over-invoiced or dummy bills are prepared. Large-scale smuggling of gold and various luxury items is an important source of black-money. Sometimes, relatives whose income is not taxable are kept on the payrolls of a company; they are paid their salary which is taken back in the forms of black-money.
The laws governing the motion of black money exhibit peculiar trends. Returns on white money investments are discouraging poor and slow. But black-money multiplies at a fantastic rate. Returns on black-money investments are often to the order of 200 to 300 percent. Since money thus generated is re-invested in such activities as hoarding and smuggling, it fetches still higher returns. Once black-money is converted into black wealth it is very difficult to track it down.
Many steps have been taken by the Government from time to time to check the tax-evasion. Following Wanchoo Committee’s recommendations the Government enacted the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975. This act has brought on the statute various provisions for preventing tax-evasion and proliferation of black-money Deterrent punishments have been, provided for tax-evasion. The other committees were—the Dangli Committee on Controls and Subsidies (1980), The Rajah Chelliah Committee, and the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (1985).
With a view of bringing about simplification and rationalization of the direct tax laws, the Government appointed a committee of experts known as the “Direct Tax Laws Committee1′ in June 1977. The recommendations of the Committee are being processed for implementation.
In 1976 the Government imposed a statutory obligation on the management to carryout physical verification of its assets for the satisfaction of the auditors to ensure that no money is created through the sale of fixed assets. Management is also obliged to maintain a proper record of the sale of scrap. Another step taken by the Government to unearth black-money was the launching of the voluntary disclosure scheme in 1975, No penalties were imposed on the persons disclosing black-money voluntarily. Demonetization of the notes of higher denomination has also been one of the recent steps of the Government to unearth black-money. Curbing of the smuggling activities in the country has been the main concern of the Government, The conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act was passed for this matter on 19th December, 1974.
la a bid to mop up black-money, the Government announced on 12th January, 1981 a new scheme of issuing a ten-year bond of the face value of Rs. 10,000 each. An ordinance for this purpose was issued by the President. The bonds will be known as ‘Special Bearer Bonds.’ The scheme gives immunity to the investor from prosecution as well as disclosure of the source of the money invested. Several other series of such bonds have been released in recent years.
The Wanchoo Committee recommended a check on tax-evasion and proliferation of black-money. However, one aspect of tax-evasion was neglected by the Committee and it was simplification of tax laws. Unless the tax laws are simplified and rationalized, tax-evasion cannot be checked. Moreover, simple filing return procedure should be laid down so that even a layman could file it without resorting to the help of lawyers and experts.
Some of the recommendations of the Waacboo Committee have been implemented by the Government. But a great deal of work still needs to be done in this matter. If the recommendations of the committee are implemented in the right earnestness, they would mitigate the magnitude of tax-evasion to a considerable extent. However the problem cannot be solved unless we, the people of India, realize our moral responsibility of contributing our efforts in the building of nation. This can be done only if hard work and honest enterprise become truly rewarding. Something more effective and meaningful should be done to stop the generation and proliferation of black-money.