Tax harassment is very widespread: Mohandas Pai

TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education and former board member at Infosys, said his criticism of the tax department’s excesses – in the context of Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha’s suicide – received an overwhelming response from businessmen all around the country.

“I have got more WhatsApp messages than I have had as New Year or festival greetings. Many people thanked me and narrated bad experiences. I was shocked. The problem is more widespread than any of us think,” he said.

Pai has been vocal about “tax terrorism” for some time now. He was vocal during the angel tax controversy. And he has been particularly vocal since Siddhartha’s death. Siddhartha had alleged harassment by the tax authorities in a letter to the Coffee Day Enterprises board.

“Many people told me that when they go to the I-T department, they are told that they better pay up. The officers say they have a target to achieve. I don’t know if there is an incentive to reach the target. They tell you to go and appeal (in court). The CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) goes on putting pressure (on officers) and they say, if you don’t meet the target, I’ll transfer you. What will the officers do? They are helpless too,” Pai said.

In Siddhartha’s case, Pai said the department’s move to issue a press release giving details about the matter was uncalled for, unnecessary and insensitive. “Giving out a lot of information gathered by them during the search and which is confidential in nature, we can’t besmirch the reputation of the person that you got in your raids without giving an opportunity to the person to present his case. We are not sure if your information is right or wrong,” he said.

Pai criticised the I-T department for saying that Siddhartha had signed a confession note.

“It shows that you used force on him. No sane person will write a confession to tax authorities unless they are under duress. In US and in most parts of the world, including India, if you write a confession under duress, it is not valid under law,” he said.

Pai said in Siddhartha’s case, there’s no demand and no assessment order from I-T department, and he has filed a revised income return and the matter is under dispute. “They went and attached shares. I don’t know what caused them to attach the shares. To protect something that could happen in future? That’s an unnecessary exercise of power and uncalled for,” he said.

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