The so called Media giant and ‘Gold Standard’ of Journalism, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has acknowledged it has paid lower taxes in India, a report by Hindustan Times has claimed. Two officials from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said BBC paid lower taxes than its actual liability.
BBC, in an email to the tax department, confessed to underreporting of the detected income which amounts to ‘tax evasion’ for which it will have to face recovery as well as penalty. Around $4.8 million (Rs 40 crore) is believed to have been underreported by the British public broadcaster, funded by the UK government.
“BBC must act as per the stated procedure or face the law. The Department will continue to take action against it until the matter is taken to the logical conclusion,” an official was quoted as saying by the publication.
Despite making an informal confession, BBC will have to file a revised return for it to be taken seriously.
Modi Government initiated action against BBC
This shocking development comes months after tax survey raids were carried out at BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai by the Income Tax Department in February.
At the time, the IT department reportedly “gathered several evidence” which indicated that tax had not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in a statement said at the time that the income and profits disclosed by BBC group entities in India were “not commensurate” keeping in mind the scale of their operations.
“The survey operations also revealed that services of seconded employees have been utilized for which reimbursement has been made by the Indian entity to the foreign entity concerned,” it added.
BBC and its financial activities have been put under the microscope since the turn of the year. In April, Enforcement Directorate registered a case against BBC for alleged foreign exchange violations.
The case was filed under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). High-level employees of the organisation including one of the BBC India directors were interrogated by the law enforcement agency.
However, the broadcaster attempted to paint a picture that the government had launched a vendetta campaign after it aired a controversial documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots which started after the Godhra train burning where 59 Hindu pilgrims were burned to death.
Opposition and Liberal-Secular cabal attacked government over BBC Survey
Opposition parties were quick to link the I-T action against the BBC to its documentary on 2002 Gujarat riots. The BJP said the ‘timing of the I-T action was not decided by the government’ and said the broadcaster did ‘venomous and shallow’ reporting on India.
“Time and again, there has been an assault on freedom of the Press under the Modi government. This is done with brazen and unapologetic vengeance to strangulate remotely critical voices,” said Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged that the I-T action showed that the BJP-led central government had reached the “heights of dictatorship”.
“First, imposed a ban on the BBC documentary. Now raids at their offices. Don’t forget Modi ji, Hitler’s dictatorship also came to an end. Your dictatorship will also end,” tweeted AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. “Modi ji, you have reached the heights of dictatorship,” Singh, who is also AAP’s national spokesperson, added.
“First ban BBC documentaries. No JPC/inquiry into Adani exposures. Now IT raids on BBC offices! India: ‘Mother of democracy’?” said CPM’s Sitaram Yechury taking a dig at PM Modi, who often uses the phrase “mother of democracy”.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra too asked if the “raids” on the BBC offices would be followed by one on “Mr A” in an apparent dig at Adani Group chief Gautam Adani.
Government slammed the Opposition
The BJP tried to counter all the criticism by saying that the BBC was “most corrupt” and accused it of unleashing “venomous” propaganda against India.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said that the Income Tax department conducts surveys from time to time when it suspects any irregularities. “After conducting surveys I-T issues a detailed press release. No is above the law in our nation,” Thakur tweeted.