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Cadre restructuring in I-T dept may open scrutiny of closed cases
July, 21st 2015

The income tax department is in a tough spot regarding the promotion of some of its top officers. Some of these officers may soon have to work at a lower grade opening up the possibility of legal scrutiny in cases that they had adjudicated in the past, including those on international tax claims.

The department had promoted about 35 officers of the 1981 batch of the Indian Revenue Service to the level of chief commissioners (a rung below that of members of the board) from commissioners in early 2014.

After the promotion the department concluded a cadre restructuring exercise that created an intermediate rung of principal commissioners. As these officers had jumped one grade, the department of personnel and training has held that they need to spend at least six months in that grade before they can become chief commissioners.

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However, some of the officers have approached the Central Administrative Tribunal to ensure that this does not happen.
The uncertainty has created discontent in the department at a time when finance minister Arun Jaitley and minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha have tried to assert that the tax regime has become consistent and fair. Moreover, the direct tax department at various levels has sent out fresh demands for retrospective taxation and created other irritants like the imposition of MAT on foreign institutional investors.

Former revenue secretary Sumit Bose said he had secured a one-time exemption for some of the officers from the Union Public Service Commission. Before he retired he had also asked for a clearance from the appointments committee of the cabinet as a one-off waiver of the rules. The committee has, however, refused the waiver.
Chief tax commissioners head all the key posts operating at the level of additional secretaries setting the policy on subjects ranging from transfer pricing to investigation. Thanks to the cadre restructuring, some chief commissioners were hoping to be promoted as principal chief commissioners at the rank of special secretary. That promotion too is now in doubt.

At this juncture working at a post lower than that of a principal secretary will also open up judicial scrutiny of their decisions taken as chief commissioners.
Also as the next batch of officers has moved up under the new structure to become principal secretaries, they could, in a bizarre turn of events become senior to those promoted earlier.

“As long as nobody protests the decisions will stay but any question in a court and we will have a first class problem on our hand,” said a concerned officer. In FY16, Jaitley has tasked the department to push for a stiff 13 per cent rate of growth plus several other measures focussed on curbing the generation of black money.
The officers are metaphorically speaking, being asked to fly the same flight twice because the pilot erred in following procedures the first time,” Jayant Mishra, secretary of the IRS officers association and a 1989 batch officer.

Tax consultants were mostly unwilling to be quoted. But several of them said since within the government promotions are technically that of

 
 
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