Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme
Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) was a very unconventional but successful step among the Indian economic policies. It would give an opportunity to the income tax/ wealth tax defaulters to disclose their undisclosed income at the prevailing tax rates. This scheme would also ensure that the laws relating to economic offences will not be applicable for those defaulters. Over 350,000 people had disclosed their income and assets under this scheme, which bought revenue of INR 78 billion to Indian finance ministry. The scheme were closed on 31 December 1997.
Features of the scheme
Being a part of Government of India, The Central Board of Direct Taxes launched this scheme on 18 June 1997. It continued till 31 December 1997. These were the salient features of this scheme:
1. The person making a disclosure would have to file a declaration in a prescribed form before the Honourable Commissioner of Income Tax. The Commissioner shall, on an application made by the declarant, grant a certificate to him setting forth the particulars of the voluntarily disclosed income and the amount of income tax paid in respect of the same.This would ensure prosecution proceedings are not initiated under the Income Tax Act,1961. A person may make a declaration in respect of any income chargeable to tax for any assessment year prior to the assessment year 1998-99:
- for which he has failed to furnish a return under section 139 of the Income Tax Act.
- for which he has failed to disclose in a return of income furnished by him under the IT Act before the date of commencement of the Act.
- which has escaped assessment in terms of section 147 as it stood prior to 1.4.1989 and thereafter.
2. The scheme would cover all persons, corporate or non-corporate. The tax payable on the disclosed income will be 30% in the case of individuals and 35% in the case of other declarants, viz, corporates and firms. The tax on the voluntarily disclosed income or wealth would have to be paid before making the declaration, and proof of such payment must be attached along with the declaration.
3. This declaration can't be used as evidence against the declarant under any of the following Acts:
- Income Tax Act, 1961
- Wealth-tax Act, 1957
- Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), 1973
- Companies Act, 1966
4. Those opting for the VDIS would be granted immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, and the Companies Act, 1956.
5. A person in whose case a search under section 132 of the Income Tax Act has been initiated or where books of account, other documents or other assets have been requisitioned under section 132A will not be entitled to make a declaration in respect of the previous year in which the search was made or any earlier previous year.
Success of the scheme
VDIS succeeded more than the India finance ministry expected. Over 350,000 individuals, with a sprinkling of companies and firms, disclosed their undisclosed incomes. Sequestered assets worth was over INR 260 billion. With tax levied at 30 per cent of the disclosed asset, the inflow of around INR 78 billion to the treasury is a good one-fifth of what the Government had collected in direct taxes in the past financial year. Watching the success, then Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram commented, "It is my faith that, given a chance, the people of India come clean". He claimed that his team of Income Tax officials had got INR 330 billion to turn white.
VDIS granted income-tax defaulters indefinite immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, and the Companies Act, 1956 in exchange for self-valuation and disclosure of income and assets.  The Comptroller and Auditor General of India condemned the scheme in his report as abusive and a fraud on the genuine taxpayers of the country.