Warning of stringent action against black money hoarders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said 37,000 shell companies indulging in tax evasion have been detected and more than three lakh firms are under the scanner for suspicious dealings post demonetisation.
He emphasised it would become more difficult for people stashing illicit funds in Swiss banks once automatic tax information exchange regime begins between India and Switzerland.
Modi said his government is committed to taking even tougher action against those helping hide black money and he is not at all concerned about any political implications of strong moves.
The impact of the government’s steps on checking black money is clear from the latest figures of Swiss banks, which show that Indians’ money parked there has dipped to a record low, the prime minister added.
Taking a dig at the previous government, he said the amount had risen sharply by 42 per cent in 2013, referring to a period when the Congress-led UPA regime was in power.
In an hour-long speech at the foundation day function of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the prime minister sought to send out a strong message against chartered accountants trying to help entities in black money dealings even as he underlined their powers and responsibility.
“The government has cancelled registration of over 1 lakh companies in a single stroke and more than 37,000 shell firms have been identified for strong action,” he said.
Referring to November 8, 2016 when the government demonetised old Rs 500 and 1,000 currency notes, Modi said he had heard that after the move, the work of the CAs increased and that even many of them cancelled their Diwali holidays.
Stressing that he was going to mention about certain numbers for the first time, he said “more than three lakh registered companies” have come under the scanner for suspicious activities after demonetisation.
Data mining about the money that has come into the system after demonetisation is going on, he added.
In a veiled dig at the CAs who might have helped entities in dealing with illicit funds post demonetisation, Modi said that he heard that after November 8, CAs had to do a lot of work but not sure how many did work for their clients and how many for the nation.
Modi also wondered as to why action has only been taken against just 25 of them for irregularities, while more than 1,400 cases have been pending for many years.According to him, CAs need to safeguard society’s economic health and they have a big responsibility.
“Your signature is more powerful than that of the prime minister and the government also believes the accounts signed by you,” he said addressing the CAs.
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Further, he asked CAs that if they know anyone with black money, they should warn them that they would not be spared.
Along with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India), the government is also cleaning India’s economy and it has taken tough stand against those who have looted the nation, the prime minister stressed.
CAs should take a pledge to bring people under the tax net rather than boasting about the number of clients they have saved from paying taxes, he added.
He exhorted them to take charge of bringing their clients to path of honesty and said a wrong audit can impact lives of gullible investors as people take investment decisions on the basis of their audit reports.
While stating that there are four goals of a human being dharma, arth, kama and moksh—Modi said that in the economy, it would not be wrong to say that chartered accountants are rishi munis (saints).
Alluding to the concept that even if one member of a family breaks the rules, then the family ends, Modi urged the CAs to lead their clients on the path of integrity.“Your patriotism is no less than mine” in ensuring the development of the country, he said.
While emphasising that the CAs have been given a new opportunity with the GST where they also have a crucial role to play, the prime minister urged them to start preparing the roadmap for 2024 -- when the institute would be completing 75 years.“Never let the opportunity slip out of your hands,” he said.
More than two crore went on foreign trips last year but there are only 32 lakh people who have declared income above Rs 10 lakh, Modi said and wondered whether there can be only that much number of people with high income.
He also called for creating four big Indian accounting firms that are counted among the world’s Big-8 even as he cautioned CAs against misuse of their all-powerful signature.
The prime minister walked on the dais like it was a town hall event and his speech received thunderous applause.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, other ministers as well as bureaucrats were present at the function which was also telecast at various city capitals.