What is a Search Under Income Tax Act. ?

Some time back, there was a news item in a leading newspaper titled “Nationwide I-T raid on A B C Industries”, which read as under:


“The Income-tax sleuths on Tuesday conducted a nationwide search operation at the premises of M/s A B C Industries Ltd. in connection with alleged tax evasion.


The searches were conducted at the company’s offices in Mumbai, Nagpur, Delhi and Kolkata, and at the residences of the company’s managing director and a few key management officials, sources in the income tax department said.


The income-tax officials also conducted surveys in nearly 15 destinations of the company’s dealers across the country.

 

More than 250 sleuths are involved in the exercise, which began this morning and will continue till late at night. ‘We’re collecting documents, which indicate towards a huge tax evasion,’ sources in the income tax department said.”


Yet another news item titled as “Income Tax Officials raid 20 XYZ offices” reads as under:


“Income Tax officials on Tuesday conducted a search and seizure operation on several premises of real estate company XYZ Ltd. under alleged cases of tax evasion. The search was carried Out in 20 offices of the company across the country to ascertain facts about under reporting of sales of properties by the realtor. Nearly 120 men have been deployed in the operation and several documents have been taken in possession.”


Some time back, there was a story in a leading daily which narrated the Income Tax Department’s achievement in a search operation as under:


“The Income Tax Department seized cash of  44.20 crore from some Delhi based businessmen carrying Out trading in commodities. The department claimed it to be the largest ever cash seizure. The department said the traders raised the money by promising their clients extraordinary high returns.”


Such news items regularly appear in the newspapers since an income tax search is not an ordinary event. Such searches shake up the persons being searched and create an impact on the public. Searches are known to have unearthed crores of tax evasion and heaps of cash, gold, jewellery, etc., which is hoarded by persons possessing easy money. Such news items also give a warning to those who are sitting on mounds of such illegal money.

The power to search is the most drastic and potent power available to the income tax authorities, which is embodied in section 132 of the Income Tax Act, 1961. It entails entering the premises of the person or group of persons being searched, and carrying out a physical search of the place for unearthing evidence of tax evasion. Search action is generally resorted to in the case of persons known to be indulging in large scale tax evasion or systematic tax fraud, and the action is aimed at finding documents and other evidences kept concealed at residences and at other places. The action is also expected to unearth cash, jewellery and other assets acquired out of tax evaded income.


Search is also the most effective tool available with the income tax authorities. Searches serve the twin objectives of unearthing tax evasion and creating deterrence through the demonstrative effect they have on the psyche of other tax evaders. Experience has shown that whenever a search takes place on a particular trade or profession, others in the same trade or profession get alerted and start paying higher taxes. The tax collections also improve in that area.
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