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I-T dept to bother NRIs with unexplained wealth: govt

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The government today said the Income Tax Department (I-T Dept) will "bother" only those non-resident Indians who have unexplained funds.

"If any money is found to be of some person and then it comes to our knowledge, then if it is legitimately explained he doesn't have to bother, but if it is unexplained then we will have to bother and we will bother," CBDT Chairman Laxman Das said at an interactive session with Ficci members here.

Finance Secretary RS Gujral, who was chairing the session, said there is no intention that NRIs should not return or should not bring back their assets to the country.

"I do not think there is any doubt. Obviously, if they have earned money and they are not required to file a return in India and they have assets abroad, they are not the undisclosed assets," he added.

The two Finance Ministry officials were replying to a query on the impact of the proposed amendment to the I-T Act.

But, Gujral said, if a person is employed as a clerk abroad and comes back after two years with $1 billion in pocket, the person would have to explain the amount.

"But generally it is very clear that there is no such intention. India wants to attract NRI investment, NRI remittances and we welcome the NRIs even coming back," Gujral added.

Regarding reassessment of income in relation to any asset located outside India, the government in Budget, has proposed reopening of assessments of up to 16 years, against six years at present.

Besides, it also plans to make it compulsory reporting requirement in case of assets held abroad.

"The time limit of six years is not sufficient in cases where assets are located outside India because gathering information regarding such assets takes much more time on account of additional procedures and laws of foreign jurisdictions," the Budget Memorandum had said.

"The 16-year thing is an enabling provision where it is found that, the person whether NRI or anybody is not able to explain as to how he acquired and whether taxes has been paid on those money, whether in India or abroad. It is never the government's purpose to trouble people who are explaining money abroad," Das said.

Experts said that such a move could create unnecessary reporting requirements and harassment for NRIs who have returned to India after staying abroad for long.

First Published: Tue, March 20 2012. 18:09 IST