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Income tax reforms that will make life less taxing
November, 09th 2015

Thanks to technology, filing income tax (I-T) returns has become easier. This assessment year, I-T returns filings were 15 per cent higher than the previous one. Buoyed by the response, the government is taking further initiatives leveraging technology to make life easier for taxpayers and improving their experience.

Paperless assessments

Taxpayers will no longer need to physically go and present the case and documents to assessing officers. To make the process easy, simple and effective, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has come up with a proposal for paperless income tax assessment over emails. This would save taxpayers visits to the I-T office, especially in cases involving small amounts. If the response and other information are found satisfactory as per automated closure rules, the issue will be treated as closed.

The I-T department has already started pilot projects in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad for non-corporate cases. After seeking willingness of select taxpayers, the first set of e-communications will be emailed. The department expects to finish the pilot scrutiny assessments in a stipulated time frame and a record-sheet of one-to-one communications will be sent to the CBDT by the end of this year so that it can be implemented on a nation-wide basis from financial year 2016-17. The e-hearing proposal will not only save time and effort, but will also help with increased transparency in the taxation system.

This is part of the eSahyog initiative that aims at reducing compliance cost, especially for small taxpayers, and will make all I-T-related transactions paperless.

Efficient grievance redressal

Income tax is a vast department that has multiple smaller units under it, handling specific roles. The grievance redressal system therefore moves at a sluggish pace. As part of the drive to ensure taxpayers' grievances are resolved without delays, the I-T department is improving its grievance redressal system.

The department is now using their internal online platform known as 'Sevottam', connecting all income tax offices in the country. All your tax related queries and grievances will now be updated in real time, making it easier for you to resolve your tax-related problems.

The I-T Department, under the new income tax returns instructions, has asked the Aaykar Sampark Kendras (ASK) to forward emails received from the taxpayers to range in-charges who will subsequently send it to jurisdictional Assessing Officers (AOs). As per earlier norms, these complaints were used to be sent to the AO but were not monitored at various levels of hierarchy, which will be done now.

The income tax customer care centres will now mandatorily answer queries related to the status of PAN, procedure of filing of income tax, refund-related grievances and for redressal of other general queries over phone calls or email.

With timely disposal of all grievances becoming a top priority, the days of long delays for resolving a small issue may well be long gone.

Faster refunds

Income tax refunds are one of the other pet peeves of many taxpayers. This may soon be relegated to history as the income tax department will now be processing and sending all tax refunds within 10 working days. The department has already taken the initiative to verify an Income Tax Return (ITR) by Aadhaar or bank database. Taxpayers no longer need to send the ITR-V or the acknowledgment receipt of e-filing to the centralised processing centre at Bengaluru.

Pre-filled ITR forms

Although the IT department has been promoting online filing of returns, many people still use the conventional way. One of the reasons for continuing with the offline method is the difficulty in uploading details, especially if the taxpayer is not comfortable using computers.

The government is now planning to offer pre-filed return forms, which will automatically upload your data and other information by using details of either Aadhaar number or internet banking. This initiative will start with small tax payers who file returns using ITR-1 and don't have refund claims. This will ensure easy tax filing. Wherever there is a change, it can be rectified by the taxpayer.

PAN camps

If you are one of the multitudes not having a PAN and have not been able to find time to get one, help is now at hand. The I-T department is conducting PAN camps across India, covering both urban and rural areas. If you need to get a new PAN or get any detail in your PAN corrected, all you need to do is to visit your nearest PAN Camp and request for it. Also the long wait to get a PAN card may soon be a thing of the past. The Government is set to launch the Income Tax Business Application-Permanent Account Number (ITBA-PAN) portal, through which anyone can apply for PAN online and get it within 48 hours.

In fact, the government is also trying to change the way I-T officers traditionally function. At a recent event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he has instructed that the performance appraisal system for Income-Tax Officers be changed. It will reflect whether or not the officer's orders and assessments have been upheld on appeal. This will deter corruption and also motivate officers to pass correct orders.

With a bevy of reforms in place and many more in the pipeline, the Income tax department is going all out to make the taxpayers' experience easy and convenient. So, get all set to pay your income tax comfortably and play your part in nation building with a smile.

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