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Govt may make Aadhaar mandatory for real estate to check benami deals

Mail Today Bureau     November 22, 2017

The government may make it mandatory for individuals to link Aadhaar with the purchase of immovable property as part of its continued crackdown against black money. An indication to this effect was given on Tuesday by Housing Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in a conversation on a business news channel on Tuesday.

Puri said in answer to a question that linking Aadhaar with property transactions would go a long way in sucking out black money from real estate and also help to keep a check on benami properties. "Seeding Aadhaar to property transaction is a great idea but I'm not going to make an announcement on that. We are already linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, etc, and we can take some additional steps for property market also," the minister said.

A senior official told Mail Today that the Income Tax Department has already informed the government that real estate is a major avenue for parking black money and any steps to tighten the vigil in this sector will help to fight the menace. In fact figures compiled in the course of I-T raids show that only 5 to 6 per cent of the black wealth unearthed is in hard cash. The rest is mainly invested in real estate while a significant amount is also held in the form of gold jewellery or bullion, he added.

The Income Tax Department is already matching the tax profiles of all property registrations valued above Rs 30 lakh under the provisions of the antibenami Act as part of its stepped up action against black money. According to Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Sushil Chandra, the I-T Department has attached 621 properties, including some bank accounts, and the total amount involved in these cases, being probed under the Benami Transactions Act, is about Rs 1,800 crore. The new law allows for the confiscation of properties, fine and a maximum jail term of up to 7 years.

Chandra also disclosed that the I-T Department has also opened 24 units to implement the anti-benami Act all over the country. Information from different sources has already started flowing in and is being intensified further. Aadhaar linking with bank accounts, phone numbers, insurance policies, PAN, PPF, NSC, LPG connections is already mandatory. While the Supreme Court is hearing the case against the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts as a violation of privacy rights there is a December 31 deadline for account holders to carry out this exercise.

The Reserve Bank of India has also clarified on October 21 that linking of bank accounts with Aadhaar is mandatory under the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017. At last count, 750 million bank accounts had been linked to Aadhaar.

The deadline is December 31. On November 9, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) made it mandatory to link existing policies and new policies with Aadhaar. The latter is must for both life and general insurance policies like travel, home, heath and motor.

While making the announcement, the regulator referred to Central government's gazette notification June 1, 2017, wherein it notified the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 and made Aadhaar and PAN/Form 60 mandatory for availing financial services including insurance and also for linking the existing policies with the same.

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