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Tax department to engage with corporates to spur receipts
October, 04th 2017

Amid slowing growth in advance tax collections, the income-tax department is exploring enhanced engagement with the top 100 companies to facilitate compliance. A committee set up under the direct tax department to review assessment and scrutiny has identified “taxpayer segmentation” to improve collections.

“The idea is to provide differential treatment to big taxpayers as they make up for the bulk of the revenue collection. The tax department is, after all, a 30 per cent stakeholder in corporate sector earnings. Stepping up engagement with them will help the department and the companies,” said a government official.

The idea is to have a dedicated tax officer who will act as a one-point contact, keeping a close watch on a company’s quarterly results or performance, facilitating advance tax filing and helping estimate earnings for advance tax computation.

Advance tax collection up to September 15 slowed to 11 per cent as against 14 per cent last year.

Advance tax means paying tax as and when the money is earned, rather than waiting for the end of the fiscal year. Advance tax collection for the corporate sector, slowed to 7.5 per cent in the first half of the current financial year compared to a growth of well over 8 per cent in the corresponding period last year.

Corporation tax collections declined to Rs 9,634 crore in August, down almost 40 per cent from Rs 16,046 crore in the previous month, according to data released by the Controller General of Accounts.Taking out seasonality, the collections fell by 28 per cent from Rs 13,403 crore in August, 2016.

The officer could even take up company specific matters to the central board of direct taxes (CBDT), if needed, according to the proposal.

As such, the proposal, if approved, will help lower litigation and enhance efficiency of Indian companies.
UK has been following the practice for a while now. Dedicated officers of its tax department hold periodic meetings with corporates, acting as facilitators and conscience keepers for the companies. They track business acquisitions and financing of these companies.

“The economic sentiment severely hits advance tax collections. While low sentiment prompts corporates to lower earning estimates for the fiscal, there may not be any actual impact on their bottomlines. Therefore, frequent engagement between these corporate and the tax department will help,” said another official.

There could be monthly or quarterly meetings with companies that make up for a bulk of collections. It will help IT deptt better assess the advance tax liability for companies by closely studying their balance sheets.

Rahul Garg of PwC India said that it is a great idea if used in good spirit. “Higher engagement is what UK has been practicing for a long time now. A dedicated officer will help improve corporate efficiency, generate employment and improve global competitiveness,” he said. A dedicated officer will ensure faster processing of the returns, clarity on exemptions and other permissions, which in turn will facilitate compliance in a non adversarial manner, Garg added.

“For instance, raising international financing or local financing requires various guarantees and mortgages that require approval from the tax department. A dedicated officer could help fastrack the process as he would understand the taxpayer profile well.,” said Garg.

The income tax department has a steep collection target of Rs 9.8 lakh crore, a growth of 15.7 per cent compared with a growth of 14.3 per cent in the previous fiscal.

The annual action plan of the income tax department includes litigation management, disposal of high value cases, scaling up of searches and seizures, strengthening of systems and investigation teams.

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