Sunday, December 4, 2016

Is Mr Modi soft on Blackmoney holders?

Is Mr Modi soft on Blackmoney holders?

The Modi Government had run a Income Declaration Scheme (IDS) for people to declare their black money. The deadline for IDS 30th September. 64,275 people had declared black money under the IDS scheme totaling to Rs. 65,250 crores. The penalty under this scheme was fixed at 45%. So it was expected that the Government will get 29,362.5 crores under this scheme.

This had made the Modi Government tom-tom its success. It was said that this is much bigger than the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) run by the Congress Govt. in 1997 as VDIS had got 33697 crores from 4.72 lakh people. At that time the Government had got tax of 9,729 crore under VDIS.

Though the Modi Government was declaring success vis-à-vis the previous VDIS, one should realise that the size of economy today is way bigger than in 1997 and the present value of 33,697 crore will be way much bigger.

Now, a series of events appear to blow a big hole in the IDS scheme.

First a person from Ahmedabad who was to pay a tax of 13860 crores declared that he didn’t have that money and had declared on behalf of others. However, other people didn’t give him the money to convert, so he can’t pay up. Next, a person in Hyderabad had declared 10,000 crores and it was found that he didn’t have even 1 crore and had just made up this story to get attention to his business.

This has resulted in the the total size of IDS declarations to drop by more than half and even smaller than the VDIS of 1997. It is to be seen how the Modi Government gives a positive spin to this disappointing news.

It should also be noted that last year, the Government had run a similar scheme for foreign blackmoney holders. There were only 644 declarations and only 2,428 crores of tax collection.

Now, the Modi Government has said that if anyone wants to declare their undeclared cash and deposits in the bank accounts then they will have to pay 49.9% tax. So this becomes the third disclosure scheme by Modi Government within a year.

Three voluntary disclosure of income schemes by the Government in such a short period of time is virtually unheard. People will lose their faith in the system and will feel that honest tax payers are being discriminated against. Blackmoney holders will feel that they will always get some more opportunity later and will be willing to take a chance.

This doesn't fit in with the narrative of a strong Government. The Government now appears to be begging before people. Mr Modi and his ministers should think hard why they are repeatedly failing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Suggestions for Moving towards Cashless Economy

Suggestions for Moving towards Cashless Economy

According to RBI, 60% of the Rupees 500 and 1000 notes have already been deposited in the banks. So the Government's calculation of blackmoney holders being caught is not going to be fruitful. Realising this, Modi Government has called for people to move into a cashless or e-payment mode. However, there is precious little that the Government has done till date to move more people into the e-payment/e-wallet mode.

So what should the Government do now?

PayTM has already launched massive advertisements featuring the Prime Minister. This is the second company after Reliance Jio to feature the PM in its advertisement. No company can do it without the permission of the Prime Minister. So I am sure the PM has given his blessings. Now the question is why the Prime Minister who always talks about swadeshi is promoting a company where the Chinese hold 40% shares? Unfortunately, that is likely to remain mystery.

Nevertheless, apart from PayTM ie promoting a private company the Prime Minister or his Government hasn't done much.

The pilot for UPI or Unified Payments Interface was launched in April 2016 by the then Governor of RBI Dr. Raghuram Rajan, which powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile app. Since August 2016 it is available for use. However, not much publicity has been done for popularising UPI. Details about UPI can be found here:

The Modi Government should immediately recruit atleast 1 crore people for atleast one year to move from door to door and popularise UPI app among people. This will also result in sudden spurt in job creation as well as adoption of the UPI app among people. The amount of money required for recruitment as well as conducting this year long promotion can be budgeted.

Politically it will help the Government as the youth will be very happy to get a job as well as act as a change agent.

Bank Accounts for all:
The other important thing that the Government can do is that Government should make it mandatory for people to open a bank account for each child. The moment a child is born, a bank account should be opened and this process should be linked with the birth certificate registration and make it seamless. With Birth certificate and bank account an Aadhar number should be also created. So this will lead to complete documentation of all citizens and any benefits transfer can happen through the bank accounts. This will go a long way towards making our economy cashless and transparent.

Hope someone can whisper these suggestions in Mr. Narendra Modi's ears.

Monday, November 28, 2016

BlackMoney Penalty: Official method to recapitalise banks

BlackMoney Penalty: Official method to recapitalise banks

Govt. has proposed to hold on to some of the money deposited in the banks if people can't satisfactorily explain the source of those money.

In the latest twist to the unfolding #Demonetisation drama, the Modi Government has proposed that people holding blackmoney can declare their blackmoney and pay 49.9 percent as tax and penalty. The breakup is as follows. Govt. will charge 30% as tax on the undisclosed income, plus there will be a 33% surcharge on it. And a 10% of the declared amount will be charged as penalty.

Apart from this, 25% of the declared income will have to be mandatorily locked-up in an interest free bonds for four years. Though the Modi Government doesn't officially say so, it expects this 25% to help in recapitalising the banks which have seen massive NPAs. For the record the Gross Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of Banks in March 2016 was 7.6%. And this figure was expected to increase to 8.5% by March 2017 and if the macro-economic situation deteriorated then it could increase to 9.3%. (Source: RBI Projections)

For example, if it can get say 1 lakh crore voluntarily disclosed as previously undeclared and hence untaxed amount which we refer to as blackmoney, then 25% of it would be 25000 crores. So this 25000 crores would be locked up for 4 years and help in recapitalising the public sector banks.

The Government was expected to inject some 40,000 crores of rupees into the banks which would have been too little. So the Government is trying to get the funds from public to recapitalise the banks.

The Government has also said that if people don't declare their undisclosed income and then get caught, then they will face penalty of 85%.

Since 9th November, a lot of people have been illegally helping change unaccounted for cash of people by taking commissions of 30 to 35%. Some people who have more than 5 or 10 crores of rupees have also given some 50% as commission to some bank employees and Income Tax people to get new notes. So the Government's proposed 49.9% combined tax, surcharge and penalty may find some takers.

Since a lot of people out of fear of persecution by Income Tax department won't declare their previously undisclosed income, the Government is trying to threaten with the higher figure of 85% if they get caught. It is a common knowledge, that the Income TAx department is grossly unprepared to handle such massive volume of cases. So it would be a big help for the Government if more people come forward and declare their previous undeclared incomes.

Till date some 8 lakh crores of rupees have been deposited in the banks. The Government was expecting that this number will be much lower. If this rate of deposits go on, then most of the 1570 crore 500 rupee notes and 630 crore 1000 rupee notes will get deposited in the banks. That would be a nightmare scenario for the Government. They had thought that if some of the notes don't come back, then RBI will knock off that amount from their books as liability and then give back the same amount to Government as dividend. The creative ways many people have adopted to deposit their blackmoney in the banks has raised the tension of the Government. If the Government can't get back money in dividend from the RBI, then it can't have a lower fiscal deficit and also it won't be able to recapitalise the banks.

So the Government now has come out with this idea of a voluntary disclosure. However, the Government is not using the word voluntary disclosure because its Voluntary disclosure scheme has just ended on 30th September.

There are some people who have 8-10 crores of cash. Some of them who were previously despondent, may go and declare it to the Government. Since they were anyway giving 35% as commission to agents, so giving a bit more and buying peace of mind may be preferable to some. However, knowing the fear of the income tax department, not everybody will agree to declare. So the Income Tax team may need to do a lot of work. Recapitalising banks won't be such an easy job.

Nevertheless, already the banks are flush with cash deposited by people. All these money is locked up in banks, as people can't draw more than 2000 rupees per day. This is expected to last for six months. So the banks have got some respite for six months from the NPA problem. The last word on this is not yet heard. However, the cover of the Modi Government that this is a people centric move is slowly getting blown and the main aim to recapitalise the banks and give a positive spin to the PM's image is now becoming clear to many people.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Coercion to Go Cashless

Coercion to Go Cashless

The 9/11 moment of Modi Government banning Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes from 9th November (mid night of 8th 00:00 hrs) not only paralysed the economy but also ensured social functions like marriages stopped due to lack of cash.

Since marriage is one of the most important social functions and Shri Narendra Modi was seen proudly claiming in Japan that even marriages have been stopped due to demonetisation, there was lot of brickbats and the Government then announced that any one person from a family having a marriage can withdraw Rs. 2.5 lakhs. However, that was not operational because banks had not got guidelines from the RBI to release funds for marriage. Currently people are only allowed 2000 rupees to draw from their savings accounts via ATM.

Now the RBI has sent its operational guidelines for dispensing RS. 2.5lakhs in cash and that has some shocking clauses.

being one an emotional The Modi Government with much fanfare announced that they are going to allow Rs. 2.5 lakhs withdrawal from your own bank accounts for marriage.

The person has to apply to the bank manager with proofs of advance payments already made towards the marriage for example booking of marriage hall along with the printed marriage invitation card etc. The marriage has to be on or before December 30th.

However, the most shocking clause is that the person has to mention whom the money will be paid and have to establish that those persons don't have bank accounts. So this cash expense can only be done to people who are out of the formal banking system.

If a person has a savings bank account, current account or Jan Dhan Yojana account, then money has to be paid by cheque or online transfer.

For example, if you are going to pay money for flower decoration, then you have to ask if the vendor has a bank account and then transfer money if he has. It is another matter that the vendor will have to pay cash for buying flowers from the women selling flowers on the street. Since the vendor have to pay cash to procure, he most likely won't accept the cheque from the person. Similarly there are many people who prefer to employ cooks to do the cooking themselves for the guests instead of giving the contract to caterers. So now visualise you buying paneer or cheese from the sweets stall who won't accept cheque. In some big cities, people the sweets stall owner may accept cheque but that is only in very few cases. You can create your own list and decide how difficult it will be for the person to do a marriage without cash.

The most important point here is that RBI is now clearly telling us that we are forced to use the banking system ie cheques, credit card, online transfer to make our payments and Cash is now pariah in this economy.

That is a very dangerous thing at this moment. US economy had credit cards since 1971. So people there use credit as second nature. In India, credit is seen as sin by many people and prefer to pay by cash. A minuscule portion of Indian economy is digital. Rest all is in cash. Insisting that we have to pay in cash is asking people to change their behaviour.

It would be easy for the educated people to do that. However, it would not be easy for others to do that.

Ethically it is not right to deny use of your own money. Government is the custodian of our money. So when you refuse to allow us to withdraw money from the banks, you are impinging on the rights of people. I can decide how to use my cash. The Government cannot just dictate that cash is bad. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Government is doing.

Democracy doesn't run on coercion. Sanjay Gandhi realised it when he forcibly took people for vasectomy and tubectomy operations. That raised lot of hue and cry and India's family planning programme after that never made any progress. The Government should have understood that even good medicine cannot be forced down the throats of people, else they will rebel.

So what can Government do to increase use of e-wallet, online transactions?

1) The Government has to incentivise people to use online bank transfers, credit cards and cheques. When others see that there is an incentive in online transfers or cheque payments then they will prefer it.

2) Government has to do an e-wallet. Instead of allowing every bank to do one, it would be better if the Government comes out with an app. Instead of #PayTM which belongs to private companies with some 40% owned by Chinese (Alibaba is a chinese company), the Government has to encourage people to use a Government of India owned e-money app which can be named eRs . It would have all the security features and will also get the trust of people as it is Government owned. The Government can then tell people that they can get back say 1% as cash refunds if they use this app to buy and sell.

3) Ensure that first all property transactions have to be done through the above mentioned Government owned e-wallet say eRs. All highway toll booths to be only through the Government owned e-wallet. So the Government can immediately know the total income of each Toll vendor and hence the Toll vendor can't keep on charging forever. All railway travel bookings in AC classes to be started with e-wallets as well as all payments to Government to be done in the cashless mode. This will along with incentives for cashless mode will ensure adoption faster and help in smoothly moving to a cashless economy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Compensating citizens for Demonetisation hardship

Compensating citizens for Demonetisation hardship

Govt. should give Fixed Deposit rates and a 100% extra for all money in banks to individual account holders

The Government's unprecedented action of declaring the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 as illegal and the resulting chaos continues unabated. Everyday, the National Media - which is mostly Delhi centric - comes to know a little bit more about the hardship of people in farflung areas and tells us how devastating this has been for many people.

The Government is however happy. The banks are also happy. Why won't the banks be happy?

For too long the banks had hidden their NPAs (Non Performing Assets) from their accounts. Industrialists have been taking loan after loan, often refinancing the old loans with even bigger new loans. The previous RBI Governor Shri Raghuram Rajan, who had famously predicted the 2008 economic collapse, had forced the banks to come clean on their bad loans or NPAs.

The Gross NPAs of banks in March 2016 was 7.6%. In rupee terms the Gross NPAs stood at 5,94,929 crores at the end of March 2016. RBI Projection says this is expected to rise to 8.5% by March 2017. And it had also said that if the "macro situation deteriorates in the future, the gross NPA ration may increase further to 9.3% by March 2017".

The public sector banks, atleast a majority of those, are like personal fiefdoms of the Chairman of the bank along with a coterie of politicians. Not many can question them. For too long this nexus between bankers, industrialists and politicians had continued till Shri Raghuram Rajan as RBI Governor decided to bring this issue to public. Shri Raghuram Rajan forced the banks to make 15% provisions for restructured loans. Now that the NPAs have been made public and are reflected in the balance sheets of the banks, they required massive recapitalisation. So there were some demands of recapitalisation of banks to the tune of 70,000 crores. However, given the scale of NPAs, that was too less.

The withdrawal of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes and people being forced to deposit their own money, banks are now flush with funds with several lakh crores of money already deposited. So a few banks have even announced reduction in their deposit rates by .15 to .25%.

Unfortunately, it is a double whammy for the common man. His/her money is forcibly deposited in the banks and only partial withdrawal of upto Rs. 2000 is possible per day. So even legitimate cash kept by people is now tied up in banks. It is like a forced fixed deposit without any extra interest rate.

If the cash deposited by the public is unaccounted for then the public have to pay income tax, as well as some 200% penalty. Though under what section that penalty percentage will be applied is not known.

Government is expected to be for the people and Government has to be seen as "just" and "fair". Unfortunately, in this entire #Demonetisation episode the public has been brutally hit. So it would be fair for the Government to announce that all deposits in the banks will earn an interest rate equal to annual fixed deposit rates and a special 100% extra on amount of hardship to the common man. That would be too low and too less because this demonetisation exercise has taken more than 50 lives and have resulted in massive loss of legitimate business.

Unfortunately, this Government only demands sacrifice from people and doesn't appear to be concerned for the "sacrifices" and doing even a small bit to alleviate their stress.

Read BlackMoney Politics & Way Forward:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Psychological warfare in Demonitisation

Psychological warfare in Demonitisation

The Government of India on 8th November night declared that the 500 and 1000 rupee notes are not legal tender from midnight that is effectively from 9th November. This 9/11 moment is as momentous in its impact on India as was the 9/11 attack on the twin towers of America.

If one looks at the messages emanating from the Government, much of it is warning to the public about the consequence of certain actions. It is a strange situation where the Government is consistently telling people to not to do certain things and if they don't listen then they will be prosecuted. If people are doing something wrong then they should be prosecuted. Lets analyse some of the warnings of the Government.

Since the Government announced that the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes are no longer legal tender and needs to be exchanged in the bank or deposited in the bank accounts, people have been depositing the money in the bank accounts. The Government then announced that any deposits in the bank accounts above Rs. 2.5 lakhs will be investigated. So some people started depositing only Rs. 2.5 lakhs in each account.

Then the Government warned that deposits in the name of housewives will be questioned ie the Government can question the source of funds.

It was reported that the Jan Dhan Yojana accounts that were opened and were lying dormant were being used to deposit upto the allowed Rs. 50,000. The Government warned that such deposits will be investigate.

Now the Income Tax department of Government of India has announced that if anyone is depositing cash in someone else's account, then these cases will be investigated under the Benami Transactions Act. The person whose account the money will be deposited will be treated as "benamidar" and the person who is the original owner of the money will be the termed as the "beneficial owner". Under the Benami Transactions Act all the persons involved are liable to be punished from anywhere between 1 to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment (R.I).

Why Govt. Creating Fear Psychosis:

The question that can come to mind is why the Government is trying to induce fear in people? Why this effort to create fear psychosis? The answer is two fold.

It Helps Political Narrative:

The first is the political narrative. The Modi Government hopes to utilise this as their big bang war on corruption and black money and use it to fight the UP and Punjab elections in early 2017. They believe, that the poor people will buy the argument that though they faced some inconvenience, they helped down in hunting the rich and the blackmoney holders. If a soldier can fight for the country, why can you not suffer this huge inconvenience for the betterment of the country, runs the argument. Since it gives the poor the vicarious pleasure of hunting the rich, it is a kind of a de-facto class warfare. Instead of directly proclaiming themselves as communists, Mr. Modi believes they can usurp the class struggle theme of the communists and get an entirely different class of voters cutting across caste and religious boundaries.

It is ofcourse a different matter that this chaos is resulting in a severe disruption of India's predominantly Cash only economy and the GDP is likely to contract. According to initial estimates the economy will take a year to come back to the days before demonitisation.

Income Tax Department will drown with work:

The Second reason for creating this fear psychosis is that the Income Tax department is not geared to handle this massive amount of work.

Only 2.87 crore Indians had filed personal income tax in the assessment year 2012-2013. Out of this 2.87 crores 1.62 crores didn't pay any income tax. So one can realise that the work of the Income Tax department is to analyse the data and work on this number.

Till last year there were some 31 crore bank accounts and then the Government is supposed to have added some 20 crore bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana. So roughly 50 crore savings bank accounts may be in India. Since the Government is forcing people to deposit the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes in the bank accounts, it is expected that the money will be deposited in many of these accounts. Due to computerisation it is easy to get data of high amounts of money deposited in the banks.

However, now the Income Tax department has to scan through data of deposits in atleast 50% of the bank accounts. I am assuming 50% because many of the Jan Dhan Yojana accounts are supposed to have been used by people to deposit money. So the workload of the Income Tax department is going to increase by atleast a massive 10-12 times. From roughly 2 crore plus accounts to some 25 or 30 crore accounts, the workload increase is going to be humongous. So it would be in their interest to discourage people to not deposit blackmoney in different accounts.

India with a population of 1.3 billion is much more than any other country except China. The sheer scale of work here is a challenge. To add to that challenge is this unprecedented action of the Government forcing people to deposit their cash in the bank accounts. One thing is for sure, neither the blackmoney holders can sleep in peace, nor the income tax guys will have any respite from work, work and more work.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Is possession of lot of old notes a crime?

Possession of lot of old notes a crime?

The Income Tax department is now conducting raids across the country based on tip-offs. In one case, in Delhi, a doctor was arrested when he was loading lot of cash in his car. A sum total of 69.86 lakhs was recovered from him in 100 rupee notes.

A man by the name Nazer-e-Alam was arrested in Delhi on Nov 18th with Rs. 1000 notes worth 96 lakhs. Alam was arrested under Section 103 of Delhi Police Act which is about possession of property for which no satisfactory explanation can be provided.

Though the above two cases appear to be same, however there is a big difference.

Technically, all our notes are legal tender. However, the Government on 8th November declared that Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 are no longer legal tender. It is not known under what act this declaration was made. Though some may consider that Government declaring the notes not being legal tender is akin to Government reneging on its promise. Every currency note is a promissory note and is guaranteed by the Central Government. Nevertheless, that is not a point of discussion for this article.

When the notes are no longer legal tender, these notes are just pieces of paper. So When a man possesses a large amount of these notes like Nazer-e-Alam, technically he cannot be charged for possession of assets disproportionate to his known income. Neither can he be charged for possession of property for which no satisfactory explanation is provided because the notes he is in possession off is no longer legal tender. Since it is no longer currency and is worthless, unless and until deposited in a bank, technically any lawyer can successfully argue and rescue him.

The sudden declaration by the Government has caught many small time traders and businessmen with cash which has not been declared to the Income Tax authorities. So they are expected to use people couriers to transport such cash from one place to another. It is expected that some of them will get caught and will be tried under various sections. However, it would be interesting to watch how the prosecution will unfold.

However, when people are found with Rs. 100 notes which are perfectly valid legal tender, there would be no respite from the income tax authorities from prosecuting the arrested persons.

Indian economy predominantly runs on cash. Demonitisation cannot happen overnight. It would take sufficient effort by the Government to move much of this to digital cash. Not many people understand how to use e-wallets. Not many trust those as well. It would help if the Government of India comes out with an e-wallet which would be readily acceptable in all places. There would be trust factor if the Government steps in as the Government would be responsible for security. The Government though at the moment seems to be letting the PayTMs of the world run with the ball.