I-T department to review orders of Settlement Commission
October, 25th 2013
By: M PADMAKSHAN
MUMBAI: The orders of the Income-Tax Settlement Commission, the body with powers to settle dispute between the income-tax department and taxpayers, are increasingly coming under review of the I-T department as it suspects some of the Commission’s recent decisions were not satisfactory.
The Settlement Commission, set up in 1976, is a statutory body which a taxpayer can approach at any stage of the assessment proceeding, subject to certain conditions. It has the authority to waive interest and penalty and grant immunity from prosecution under the Income-Tax Act. Its orders are conclusive and non- appealable.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has asked the assessing officers to scrutinise the Settlement Commission’s orders and make a report, identifying the holes in the Commission’s orders and explore the possibility of filing a writ petition. KV Chaudhary, member (investigation ), CBDT, has admitted that a directive to scrutinise these orders has been issued, but said there was nothing new in asking the officers to review the orders.
Scrutinising such orders has been routinely done, he said. When asked why a directive now, he said, “We have just formalised the system. Now the officer dealing with the case has the responsibility to file a report on the Commission’s orders.” R Bharadwaj, chairman of the Commission, said, “I cannot comment on the internal matter of CBDT.”
According to sources in the I-T department, the immediate reason for this move is that the Commission’s recently let off some offenders who were caught fudging accounts using bogus bills.
The Settlement Commission, constituted under section 245 B of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (Chapter XIX-A ) and section 22B of the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, had its ups and downs with finance minister P Chidambaram, curtailing the Commission’s powers to the minimum and his successor Pranab Mukherjee reinstating its powers in addition to sanctioning additional benches.
Mukherjee was reportedly convinced by the then senior functionaries of the Commission that the latter can collect revenues faster than other forums. The Commission has benches at New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.
The Commission has the record of refusing to admit the application of late Harshad Mehta and Pune businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who is facing probe from the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax department on charges of opening illegal accounts in Swiss banks.