CBDT delays relief to taxpayers facing double taxation in India - Review of its recent Circular

The Pandemic induced strict lockdowns and border closures have given rise to anxiety and confusion amongst taxpayers regarding their tax residency position in India. The Indian Government recognizes the restrictions that the Pandemic has imposed on individuals’ movement to and from India. As a result, many people have been forced to spend more time in India than originally anticipated – thereby creating expensive changes in their residency and income tax status.
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 TO TRUST OR NOT TRUST - MUMBAI ITAT AFFIRMS EXCLUSION OF CORPUS FUND OF OFFSHORE TRUST FROM INDIAN WEALTH TAX

Background:

Creation of private trusts have been considered as a popular method by rich families for succession planning. Trusts are a legal arrangement whereby assets are placed into the care of an individual who manages them for the benefit of someone else. Trust can be further classified into specific or discretionary based on the scheme of distribution of the trust fund. However, in recent times, offshore trust structures are suspected to be more commonly used as a means of money laundering than lawful tax planning. Consequently, the Income-tax Department has been unveiling various private offshore trusts and imposing tax liability on the beneficiary owners. This has led to an increase in reassessment proceedings and dissatisfaction among the residents for being subjected to wrongful tax liability. Recently, the Mumbai Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (“ITAT”) provided relief to Mr. Yashovardhan Birla and held that offshore trusts are considered to be acceptable form of tax planning and a beneficiary of an offshore discretionary trust cannot be taxed on the entire corpus fund merely because he has been provided with the power to appoint/ reappoint trustee. The case is discussed in detail below:
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Prosecution under Black Money Act for inherited foreign bank accounts

The scourge of ‘black money’ has been a persistent issue for India, becoming a major political issue in the recent past. The problem of black money leads to challenges on multiple fronts, greatest of them being denial of revenue to the Government. The parallel economy created by black money deprives the government of its due share of individual income tax, which in turn leads to reduced funds available for much needed government spending and stimulus. Socially, the problem of black money gives rise to further corruption and enhanced class inequality.

Since coming to power in 2014, the current Government has taken up the issue of black money as a major point of reform and has been gradually escalating its efforts to bring black money, both in India and abroad, to tax. Some of the major measures include establishing the multilateral mechanism for Automatic Exchange of Information, information exchange mechanisms with various countries under the respective tax treaties, the demonetisation drive, enactment of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 (BM Act) and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
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