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The number of companies which have PAN but do not file income tax returns have increased over the past five years from 4.09 lakh in assessment year 2012-13, to 4.60 lakh (AY 2013-14), Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.
The number was 5.19 lakh in AY 2014-15, 5.73 lakh (AY 2015-16) and 6.83 lakh (AY 2016-17).
As per the database of the Income Tax department, Delhi had the most number of such companies at over 1.44 lakh, followed by Mumbai (94,155) which had PAN but were non-filers for assessment year 2016-17.
"Non filing of return of income by a company does not necessarily indicate its indulgence in money laundering activities," Gangwar said.
However, in cases where instances of money laundering come to the notice of the tax department, suitable action is taken as per law, he said.
Under the Companies Act, notices have been issued to all those companies which were prima facie not carrying out any business or operation for a period of two immediately preceding financial years and had failed to file their financial statement for the said period.
"Consequently, names of a large number of companies have been removed (struck off) from the Registrar of Companies," he said.
Besides, the I-T department has also taken effective action -- like searches, surveys and filing of prosecution complaints before criminal courts -- against the shell companies as part of the ongoing exercise against black money.
PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number alloted by the I-T department to individuals and entities.