Remember the post-demonetization days when the opposition and the liberal media was shouting on top of their voice that it is a colossal failure just because 99% of the money had returned to the banks? All sorts of stories around how government facilitated conversion of black money into white at the expense of the poor had surfaced and even the Modi supporters had started questioning the move. And the supposed “haywire” implementation of GST was the confirmation that Modinomics is on the way to doom the country, the depths of which we will never be able to recover from. Well guess what, 2018 will be the year when you get to see the results for yourself.
Demonetization armed the government with a huge data on bank deposits which it used to run analytics to scan irregularities in deposits. The ED and the IT department identified around 18 lakh people with income irregularities and has started sending those people notices. But that was not enough since DeMo only gave data on bank deposit irregularities. With the implementation of GST, the government now has info on the business transactions of the companies, their incomes as well as the incomes of their promoters and owners. The government is working to follow this trail of information to create a database wherein the income of companies and their promoters could be matched with that of the GST returns filed.
This is the first time ever that any government would be matching indirect tax data with income tax filings in such a big way. This cross-verifying of the data will make it pretty tough to under-report income or exaggerate expenses.
The government, with the help of Aadhar, bank accounts, income tax returns and mobile, is tracking the user incomes, the cash inflow in their account, their properties or purchase history and compare it with the incomes and balance sheets of the companies that they are connected to, essentially removing all the loopholes to evade taxes. That is how, the government was able to crack down so many shell companies in such a short time and indicate their directors.
The latest addition to the government’s arsenal is “Project Insight”. Ever wondered how websites such as Google or Facebook show you ads that match your interests? It tracks your online activity. The government plans to do the same, but in the expenditure section. The government wants to scrutinize the financial data closely using data analytics to monitor your expenditure. So, say you are applying for an economically backward class quota somewhere and at the same time buying a shiny new car, the IT department will know. And it WILL question you. Last year, the IT department signed a pact with L&T InfoTech to implement Project Insight, which is designed to strengthen the non-intrusive information-driven approach for improving tax compliance.
Well, what about the “safe” sectors such as the agriculture sector where people don’t need to pay taxes and people use it often to convert black money into white. Some land owners try to evade taxes by using fake receipts from vendors and thus showing that they farmed the land and sold the products in the market, but in reality, no such farm products were ever really produced. The government has found a way to identify that as well. The IT department can now access satellite images from the ISRO for any piece of land for specific time periods to check if there were any standing crops around that time to prove whether the assesse is trying to evade the taxes.
The current government is not just smart, but also tech-savvy and it knows how to put the latest technology to good use. Thus, the honest, tax paying citizens are spared from the extra tax that they had to pay because some rich, smart people had found a way to avoid paying them. The income tax is an unavoidable certainty now, people better get used to it sooner than later.