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Dear Sir, please file your I-T returns
June, 30th 2006

Have you missed the deadline for filing income-tax (I-T) returns? Dont worry, this time you may receive a love letter from the taxman, instead of a legal notice.

Humbled by the shortage of workforce and due to mounting workload, the income tax department has decided to choose the path of persuasion rather than taking penal action against defaulters.

There has been a marked shift in the I-T departments policy. Unlike the earlier practice of slapping notices, it now believes in sending simple letters to those who have failed to file returns on time. Letters are polite in tone and remind the taxpayer of his obligation.

The purpose of such letters is to encourage voluntary compliance, sources in the finance ministry said. While a letter is just a reminder, issuing a notice would mean initiating legal action against the defaulter. Once a notice is issued, the department is bound to complete the entire investigation process and reach a conclusion, an official said.

It is expected that such letters would induce a majority of taxpayers to react promptly. But this does not mean that the taxman has lost his teeth. It would now be even easier for I-T officials to identify such defaulters who deliberately miss the deadline. Such people will be identified and would be served notices.

According to the I-T department, there has been a massive gap between I-T assessees and the number of returns filed. While there have been 3.15 crore assesses in assessment year 05-06, only 2.62 crore returns have been filed. The department has to find details of 0.53 crore assessees.

The assessees had to file their returns by June-July 05. They could still file their returns up to March next year. Now they are at the mercy of I-T officials. The taxman can impose a penalty on them for the default.

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