The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sleuths hone knives for tax frauds

Mumbai, July 2: The income tax department can’t believe Mumbai has so little to pay by way of taxes. So, it has decided to grab the tax fraud by the jugular.

The harried department has decided to launch independent investigations into anything that remotely reeks of “excess”.

Lifestyle expenditures are a prime target. So, there’s no escaping for the hotelier who buys foreign cars but doesn’t pay his taxes. Or the film star who insists he doesn’t get paid as much as people think.

And the polo playing ad guru' Well, he better watch out when he takes his dates out in a yacht on a moonlit night. The department has got hold of all their bills and is busy matching them with their very modest claims.

Sources in the department said that in a radical and unprecedented move, tax sleuths have prepared a fat dossier of big industrialists, corporate heads, film stars and other businessmen who have allegedly hidden far more than they have revealed.

“The investigations will be information specific,” a top tax official said.

“We are not hunting heads here as this is no fishing inquiry. There will be no scope for any unfair use of the information that we gather, we can assure everyone that much.”

He said the department launched the investigations into what they feel is tax fraud because they felt the necessity for “fixing up a specific criteria” for detecting evasion.

“Earlier, we had no specific criteria to detect the anomaly between personal expenditure and payment of taxes. Now we are getting there.”

Sources in the department confirmed they had the cell phone bills of some big users and the details of car purchases of others. The department has also contacted travel agents for a count of the foreign visits the rich have made. It is also looking at the members on the rolls of exclusive clubs.

The department has already sent “notices” to some big spenders and asked them to reassess and provide details of their income. About 15 film personalities, including one star who paid Rs 9 lakh as his cell phone bill last month, have got the notices.

Personalities from Bollywood were at the top of the tax heap with Hrithik Roshan finishing first by paying a whopping Rs 5.19 crore in taxes. Only Dilip Kumar Lakhi and Radhakrishan Damani were ahead of him, both paying around Rs 6 crore.

While Amitabh Bachchan paid Rs 2.12 crore, Karisma Kapoor shelled out Rs 1.87 crore. Shah Rukh Khan coughed up Rs 4.37 crore, Subhash Ghai Rs 2.38 crore, Aishwarya Rai Rs 2.46 crore and Salman Khan Rs 2.92 crore.

“There will be cries of persecution but we are targeting the likes of those who routinely pay more than Rs 50,000 per month on phone bills,” said a tax officer.

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