Nothing robs more the sheen out of the recently closed Income Declaration Scheme 2017 (IDS) than the telling figures revealed by the government itself-only 15 percent of the declarations were voluntary. Out of some 64,000 odd declarants who declared about Rs 65,000 crore and coughed up roughly Rs 30,000 crore as tax plus penalties aggregating to 45 percent of the declaration, all others were caught by the pincer of a data base painstakingly and assiduously built by the CBDT.
While carrot and stick policy is welcome, what takes the glow out of whatever modicum of success it might have registered is the IDS was a voluntary declaration scheme pure and simple in design. The coercive measures might have come as a face saver but that at best enables the government to avoid the blushes.
The Parliament must resolve never again to insult the nation with such wooly-wooly schemes that fool no one except buys time for the harried government. Such schemes indulge crooks repeatedly while discouraging and disheartening the honest besides showing the government of the day in a bad light---being impotent to gun after crooks.
So let us stop all pretense and refrain from combining normal enforcement schemes with supposedly catchy schemes like IDS.
What is more important is the remaining 85 percent of the declarants, i.e. the unwilling ones, as it were, have also come to savor some of the soft features of amnesty schemes like immunity from prosecution, etc. Had they not be allowed to jump wittingly or unwittingly into the bandwagon, the government could have realized a lot more given that the penalty for tax evasion is 300 percent of the tax. Such schemes are also a wrong signal to the honest tax payer.
In fact this has been one of the dangers of tax amnesty schemes as eloquently highlighted by the Wanchoo committee of yore-encouraging repeat and serial tax offenders who'd rather prefer to wait for the next scheme after having faithfully participated in the earlier ones and making a show of contrition and repentance.
The farce should stop.