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Income tax administration simplified
March, 11th 2008
Simplification of tax administration has been high on the government's agenda. Various measures have been taken by the government over the past few years.

These include introduction of PAN as the sole identification number for income tax transactions, electronic payment of taxes, electronic filing of income tax returns, and so on. The tax department plans to concentrate on more efficient and effective work.

In the current year, the tax-GDP ratio is at an all-time high of 12.5 percent. Direct tax collections touched Rs 3 lakh crores for the first time. The Department has been disposing off about 2.60 crore tax assessments every year. The cost of collections is already going down and stands at 0.74 percent of the total collections.

Now that this workload will is likely to reduce, much more will be expected from the assessing officer (AO) in ensuring tax compliances and collection of taxes. The budget has mentioned that PAN will now be mandatory for all financial transactions.

The scheme for making prima facie adjustments so as to make summary assessments without calling for the attendance of the taxpayer has been brought back. As per the amendment to Section 143 of the IT Act, the AO can correct arithmetical mistakes in the returns. Adjustments to the income returned will be made only in the case of computerised processing without any human interface.

The IT Department is in the process of establishing a system for centralised processing of returns. A software will be designed to detect arithmetical inaccuracies and internal inconsistencies and make appropriate adjustments in the computation of the total income.

The due date for filing of returns for companies will henceforth be September 30 instead of October 31.Tax administrators will be relieved that the Banking Cash Transactions Tax (BCTT) is now withdrawn. It will help trim the direct tax law. Effective June 1, 2005, a banking cash transaction tax was charged at 0.1 percent on every transaction on any single day - withdrawal of cash from an account (other than savings account) or receipt of cash on any single day, encashment of one or more term deposits, whether on maturity or otherwise exceeding specified limits.

The Banking Cash Transaction Tax (BCTT) has served a very useful purpose in enlarging the information system of the Income Tax Department. Since information is also being gathered through other instruments introduced in the last few years, the FM has proposed to withdraw this tax with effect from April 1, 2009.

At the same time, a Commodities Transactions Tax (CTT) has been introduced, which will be on the same lines as the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) on options and futures. At present, STT paid is allowed as a rebate against tax liability. Further, STT on options is levied on the aggregate of the strike price and the option premium, and is borne by the seller.

The FM has proposed that the STT paid will be treated like any other deductible expenditure against business income. Also, the levy of STT, in the case of options, will be only on the option premium where the option is not exercised, and the liability will be on the seller. In a case where the option is exercised, the levy will be on the settlement price and the liability will be on the buyer. There will be no change in the present rates.

Following an agreement between the Central Government and the State Governments, the rate of Central Sales Tax was reduced from four percent to three percent in this financial year. The FM has proposed to reduce the rate to two percent from April 1, 2008. Further, there has been considerable progress in preparing a roadmap for introducing the Goods and Services Tax with effect from April 1, 2010.
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