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I-T DEPT PLANS E-ALLOCATION, VERIFICATION AND HEARING IN SCRUTINY OF RETURNS – BUSINESS LINE

Move to eliminate physical interface of taxpayer with the officials
Hoping to cut down harassment of taxpayers during verification and scrutiny of income-tax returns, the Tax Department hopes to introduce features, including team-based assessment, video-conferencing and electronic review of orders, to ensure quality assessments and avoid high pitched tax demands.

“The idea is to eliminate physical interface of the taxpayer with the income tax official, which is where the harassment begins. We plan to launch electronic allocation, verification and hearings and also e-review of orders,” said a senior income tax official. The next step will be to set up central record keeping at the Centralised Processing Centre of the Income Tax Department in Bengaluru, along with re-engineered processes.

A key feature of this will be to set up a strong back office with no public contact, he said, adding the functions of the Assessing Officer will be “unbundled” and given to various officers of a team.

There will no specific jurisdiction for tax officials and an officer from any region may be given a case from any region by an automated process to ensure that there is no pressure to act or pay up on either of the two, he added. To avoid unnecessary litigation, the final order will also be reviewed by a team of experts before it is released to the assessee.

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had, in the Interim Budget 2019-20, announced that within the next two years, almost all verification and assessment of returns selected for scrutiny will be done electronically through anonymised back office, manned by tax experts and officials, without any personal interface between taxpayers and tax officers.

At present, income tax returns are selected for scrutiny through a computer based system, while the notice to the taxpayer, the response of the taxpayer and the assessment order are all done electronically.

Officials said a pilot project has already begun on the new system but could take as much as two years to fine-tune. As many as two lakh taxpayers have already communicated through the portal last year.