With just three weeks to go for India's national budget for next fiscal, the finance ministry has called for urgent steps to fill top-level vacancies in the direct tax administration as delays were affecting the realisation of targets.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman S.S.N. Moorthy has even written to the chairman of Union Public Service Commission requesting an urgent meeting of what is called the departmental promotion committee for filling up the vacancies.
In the letter, Moorthy says after the recent promotion of some officials to the grade of chief commissioners, the vacancies in the posts of commissioners of income tax had gone up to as high as 71.
Some of these vacancies are in key circles of the tax administration in large metros such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai, which account for the bulk of the country's direct tax collections.
Needless to say, this is adversely affecting the efforts of the department in meeting the revenue collection targets, the tax board chief says in the letter to Union Public Service Commission Chairman D.P. Agarwal.
Senior officials in the finance ministry said almost the entire 1989 batch of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers has been awaiting decision for several months for the promotion.
The letter also comes against the backdrop of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee directing the Income Tax Department to make all efforts to achieve the revised collection target of Rs.4,000 billion by the end of this fiscal.
India's direct tax collections have been just Rs.2,500 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal, growing at 8.5 percent over the corresponding period of the previous year. In fact, personal income tax has actually seen a decline of 0.41 percent.
This has obviously made the tax administration jittery.
Senior officials said one of the main ways to enhance tax collections would be by regular sharing of information among the commissionerates and developing a common database. But vacancies at the top slots are frustrating such efforts.
Revenue Secretary Sunil Mitra is also holding an urgent meeting with 18 chief commissioners of income tax here Thursday to review the shortfall in tax collections and find ways to to make it up.