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Taxman takes to tech in search operations
May, 10th 2007
Tax evaders who hide their transactions behind IT (information technology) firewalls will now find it more difficult to do so. The income-tax department is working on ways to crack IT shields of tax evaders. One of the key measures planned is to include computer experts in survey teams that swoop down on suspected evaders.

The department is also in the process of setting up forensic laboratory which would be equipped to deal with computer evidence. In a large number of cases where surveys or searches are carried out, the income tax authorities have to deal with evidence in electronic form.

Officers who carry out surveys may not necessarily be equipped to decipher electronic evidence but now with the help of experts, they would be able to, an official said. The department has reworked survey guidelines to keep pace with increasing deployment of IT tools by evaders, the official added. Under the new survey guidelines, income-tax sleuths who undertake surveys would be assisted by computer experts at hand to deal with digital data and IT equipment.

Income-tax survey teams have the authority to enter business premises to inspect books of accounts, cash, stock, other valuables, and place marks of identification on these items. Survey is done by the jurisdictional assessing officer or the investigation wing of the department.

Survey officers are not entitled to enter the residential premises of assessees. The department can also carry out survey of expenditure incurred by an assessee in connection with a function, ceremony or event like marriage. The survey guidelines have been reworked after about 20 years. Under the new guidelines, taxmen would also not be able to impound stocks of a taxpayer. Taxmen will be able to impound only the books of accounts.
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