Indians’ Unaccounted Wealth Abroad Estimated At $216-490 Billion, Show Studies
Indians held between $216 billion and $490 billion in unaccounted wealth abroad over various periods between 1980 and 2010. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Indians’ Unaccounted Wealth Abroad Estimated At $216-490 Billion, Show Studies

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Indians held between $216 billion and $490 billion in unaccounted wealth abroad over various periods between 1980 and 2010, according to three separate ‘black money’ studies conducted by three premier institutes.

The studies conducted by the three institutes—National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, National Council of Applied Economic Research and National Institute of Financial Management—found that the sectors where black money is found to be the highest include real estate, mining, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, bullion, commodity, film and education, said a report of the Standing Committee on Finance tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

There are no reliable estimates of black money generation or accumulation, neither is there an accurate well-accepted methodology for making such estimation, according to the committee's report titled Status of Unaccounted Income/Wealth Both Inside and Outside the Country—A Critical Analysis.

"All estimates depend upon the underlying assumptions made and the sophistication of adjustments incorporated. Among the estimates made so far, there is no uniformity, or consensus about the best methodology or approach to be used for this purpose," the report stated.

According to the black money report, the NCAER study found that unaccounted wealth of $384 billion-$490 billion existed outside India in the 1980-2010 period.

The NIFM study said results of estimation suggest that total black money outflow at the current value (including opportunity cost) from India in the reform period (1990-2008) stands at Rs 9,41,837 crore ($216.48 billion). Black money outflows from the country are estimated on an average at 10 percent of the estimated unaccounted income.

The NIPFP said that during 1997-2009, illicit financial outflows have been in the range of 0.2 percent to 7.4 percent of India’s gross domestic product.

In March 2011, NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM were asked by the finance ministry to conduct studies to assess and survey unaccounted income and wealth both inside and outside the country.

"It appears that the reliable estimation of unaccounted income and wealth inside and outside the country is a difficult task, this inference is validated by the widely varying estimates of the unaccounted income arrived at by these three institutes.

"The chief economic adviser has opined that there is no scope for arriving at a common estimate of unaccounted income by combining estimates from the three studies," the parliamentary panel's report said.

The panel, headed by Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, had submitted its report to the Lok Sabha speaker on March 28, well before the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

Following the general elections, the 17th Lok Sabha has been constituted.

The committee also noted that as only a "limited number of stakeholders" could be examined by it, owing to the paucity of time, "this report might be considered as a preliminary report", pending examination of other witnesses including non-official witnesses or experts on the subject and after evidence replies of the finance ministry which are awaited.

"In the meantime, the Committee would expect the Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) to continue their efforts with greater vigour to unearth and bring to book unaccounted income/wealth both within and outside the country including follow-up action on the seven reports of the special investigation team (SIT) constituted on black money as well as the three study reports on estimation of unaccounted money," it said.

The committee, the report added, would thus expect more fruitful outcomes on this count, both in terms of much wider tax base as well as actual tax yield. It also desires that the long-delayed direct tax code should also be finalised and reintroduced in Parliament with a view to simplify and rationalise the direct tax laws in the country.

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