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 Here's what you must know to stay clear of taxman

An ombudsman for your tax grievances
April, 28th 2014

Your tax refund for a particular year has been due for a long time now. Perhaps you also applied for a PAN card for your daughter, but it still hasn’t come through. You have approached the officers concerned several times, but all in vain.

Enter the ombudsman

Don’t fret! There is another route open for aggrieved taxpayers like you to have their issues addressed. There is a parallel authority, the Income Tax Ombudsman, to resolve grievances against the department.

The offices of the ombudsman are located in select cities. These are Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Lucknow.

A list of the appropriate ombudsman for residents of each state and union territory, along with the coordinates of the officers to be approached, is available on the I-T department's website,

Nature of complaints

Besides commonplace issues such as an undue delay in refunds or non-allotment of PAN, the jurisdiction of the ombudsman extends to several other complaints.

You can approach this authority in events such as non-acknowledgment of letters or documents sent to the department, delay in giving effect to appellate orders, non-credit of tax already paid (including TDS), non-communication of reasons in case your return is selected for scrutiny or even non-adherence to prescribed working hours by tax officials or unwarranted rude behaviour on their part.

‘The Income Tax Ombudsman Guidelines 2010’, also available online, outline the grounds on which a complaint can be made.

Before proceeding, in order to ensure that your complaint will be entertained, you can solicit the help of your auditor or officials in your company’s legal department to check if your complaint will be accepted.

Procedure for complaints

Before you approach the ombudsman, do remember that you must first try to resolve all complaints with the relevant authorities within the income tax department.

You can move to the ombudsman only after they either reject the complaint, or don’t give a satisfactory response or, at the worst, don’t reply at all, even one month after you have made your grievance known to them.

In such a situation, make sure that you approach the ombudsman within one year from the time of rejection or non-satisfactory response, or in case there is no reply altogether, within 13 months from the time of making the complaint.

Complaints need to be made in writing or through email. The letter should include the name and address of the complainant, the name of the office and the official of the department against whom the complaint is made. You also have to provide the facts giving rise to the complaint along with supporting documents and the relief sought from the ombudsman.

You can also use your authorised representative to make a complaint on your behalf.

Settlement

Once the ombudsman receives a complaint, he will forward it to the relevant income-tax authority and will try to resolve the dispute through mediation or conciliation. If a complaint is not settled in this manner within a period of one month from the date of its receipt, the ombudsman will make a decision on the case after hearing out both the parties.

The decision may include a direction to the concerned income tax authority to perform his duty and a token compensation amount to the complainant for the loss suffered. So don’t despair when you have troubles with the tax department.

 
 
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