The income tax (I-T) department has identified 58,322 cases for scrutiny under the newly launched e-assessment scheme, which seeks to end the physical interface between the assessee and tax officials. This is part of the Narendra Modi administration’s efforts to make tax compliance easier for businesses and individual taxpayers.
Revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who inaugurated the national e-assessment ecosystem in the capital on Monday, said it was an important milestone in the history of the tax department.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman P.C. Mody told reporters that the cases were randomly selected for e-assessment, and the department will complete the process as soon as possible.
Electronic notices have already been served for the cases pertaining to assessment year 2018-19 (FY18).
“Taxpayers have been advised to check their registered e-filing accounts/email ids and have been requested to furnish reply within 15 days,” said the tax department statement.
Under e-assessment, cases will be referred to eight different e-assessment units across the country automatically. This is expected to improve transparency and reduce grievances related to over-pitched assessments, as well as litigation, it added. CBDT officials said better assessment of income by removing individual discretion, could help boost the government’s revenues.
India has more than 74 million effective direct tax payers, including those who have not filed tax returns but have had their taxes deducted at source by employers. Eventually, the scope of e-assessment will be scaled to a larger section of taxpayers.
According to Krishna Mohan Prasad, a senior I-T department official, the chosen cases include companies, individuals and limited-liability partnerships. Under the scheme, which was notified last month, personal representation is allowed in specific circumstances, such as appeals against the assessment.
Experts said that faceless assessment, which extensively uses technology and modern communication facilities, has several advantages. “Besides saving energy and time for both taxpayers and officials, e-assessment will bring uniformity in handling of cases, which is a significant positive feature. Also, insights from processing of data electronically will be much more reliable for policy making purposes,” said Rahul Garg, tax partner at PwC India.
Under the process, taxpayers will be served notices through emails and on their registered accounts on the e-filing portal. They will also be alerted through text messages. Taxpayers can email their responses to the National e-Assessment Centre, which is manned by 800 officials across the country.
The tax department had recently come under criticism for alleged harassment by tax officials following the death of Café Coffee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha. However, the charge was refuted by the department.
Now, e-assessment is expected to eliminate the possibility of corruption as there is no physical interface between officials and taxpayers.
At the beginning of its second term, the Modi government forcibly retired 25 senior officials of direct and indirect administrations who were facing charges of corruption and illegal gratification. The officials are being investigated by various central agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).
With the e-assessment scheme, the role of jurisdictional assessing officer gets eliminated, according to Rakesh Bhargava, director of Taxmann, a publisher of tax and law books.
“The e-assessment scheme is a quantum leap towards building a healthy tax assessment ecosystem and investor-friendly assessment environment in India,” said Bhargava.