By Abhishek Jha and Shikha Sharma:
The Union government on Wednesday (March 22), passed the Finance Bill 2017. Impacting up to 40 different laws governing the country, the bill is unprecedented in its scope. Since it is a money bill, the changes the bill proposed will not even face a vote in the Rajya Sabha. Experts have condemned the bill and said that the Centre has used it as a “back-door” entry to pass a number of controversial, non-finance related legislation – legislation that will affect each one of us. Here’s detailing a few provisions that the bill mentions that is definitely not good news for Indian citizens!
1) No Need To Provide Reasons For Raids
- If the IT department conducts a raid, individuals can no longer raise objections regarding its reason before an authority or appellate tribunal.
- You will no longer be able to challenge tax assessments before tax tribunals.
- Experts fear that the retrospective nature of the amendment (it will be effective from April 1, 1962) and non-disclosure of reasons will allow arbitrary raids and harassment of even law-abiding people.
2) Provisional Attachment Of Property
- Any property, irrespective of whether it is under investigation under the IT Act or not, can be seized by govt during a raid if it is in “the interest of the revenue”.
- Government can also attach your property for 6 months.
- The amendment fails to clarify how one can claim back their property after 6 months or if authorities will ensure safety of the property in that time.
3) Charities Can Also Be Inspected Now
- The power to conduct ‘surveys’, wherever so far limited to places of business and profession under the IT Act, will extend to charitable organizations.
- Charities will now specifically be under the scanner of the IT department.
- Given the current government’s actions against charities, critics fear that this amendment will be used to harass charities.
4) Tribunals Get The Short Stick
- The government has merged several administrative tribunals and assumed powers to appoint and remove their chiefs.
- Government will have power to make rules governing appointment, removal and terms of service members for 17 tribunals.
- More tribunals can similarly be amended without parliamentary approval.
- Experts fear the move will compromise the independence of autonomous bodies as the government will have enormous influence in deciding appointments at these places.
5) Political Funding And Electoral Bonds
- Currently, companies can donate average of 7.5% of its net profits in the last 3 years to political parties.
- Once the bill comes to effect, this cap on political funding will be removed.
- Companies will no longer be required to name political beneficiaries, allowing them to contribute money anonymously.
6) Aadhar Card Made Mandatory
- Aadhar is now mandatory for filing income tax returns and obtain Pan Card.
- Without applying or possessing Aadhar, it won’t be possible to pay taxes.
- Experts fear ordinary citizens -not in possession of Aadhar – could even be charged with tax evasion or booked for not -complying with the Income Tax Act, 2016.
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