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Tax preparers scheme no threat to CAs
December, 26th 2006

The finance ministry has defended its pet project to train educated youths as tax return preparers (TRPs), saying it did not infringe on the rights of the chartered accountants or other tax professionals.

The TRP scheme has been introduced only with a view to help in preparing and filing returns by small and marginal individuals and HUF tax-payers for more tax compliance, as per the affidavit filed by the ministry in Delhi High Court.

This was stated in a reply to a PIL challenging the scheme introduced by the ministry to assist tax-payers in filing their returns. The petitioner, a chartered accountant, had sought directions from the court to the ministry to stop the scheme.

The Delhi High Court, on November 20, had issued notices to the finance ministry and the director general of income tax. The affidavit submitted that the scheme was as per the provisions of Section 139B of Income Tax Act. There was no challenge to this Section and no public interest was involved, it said and argued that the PIL should be rejected.

The ministrys document said that none of the statutory functions of chartered accountants have been affected by the launch of the TRP scheme as preparing and filing of IT returns was not a statutory function of CAs alone.

Section 139(1) of the IT Act casts a liability or onus on an assessee to prepare and furnish IT returns by himself or he can get it prepared and filed through any other person, including a professional like CA, advocate or IT practitioner. Therefore, the assertion that only CAs were authorised to prepare and file IT returns was incorrect, it said. The affidavit, further, said a committee appointed by CBDT had submitted that 80 lakh taxpayers stopped filing returns, and many more may not file their returns. Hence, a simpler mechanism needed to be evolved which could help these individuals in filing returns, it said.

As per the scheme, graduates in commerce, law, economics, mathematics and statistics will be trained as tax return preparers by the I-T department in collaboration with NIIT in a nine-day training programme. About 5,000 TRPs were to be trained on a pilot basis from this financial year at 100 centres across 80 cities. Earlier, the petitioner had contended that the scheme encroached on the jurisdiction of chartered accountants, and claimed they alone were eligible to prepare tax returns.

The TRP scheme envisaged a mere nine-day training to graduates, who would practice as CAs in filing returns with the income tax department, thereby giving a go-by to the canon and law in its true spirit, the petitioner had argued. Terming the very scheme contrary to the provisions of Chartered Accountants Act, the petitioner had contended that its implementation would render CAs jobless.

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