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With Rs 75K crore stuck, tax department proposes e-solutions
August, 30th 2010

The income-tax department has proposed a national e-management system for quick disposal of tax disputes, with more than Rs 75,000 crore, an amount close to a fifth of the governments annual direct tax collections, locked in litigations.

The new system will allow the tax department to make optimum use of its workforce, reduce painful wait for the disposal of tax appeals and free up resources quickly.

The move is part of a series of steps planned by the government to make the tax system simpler. The new Direct Taxes Code Bill, cleared the Cabinet on Thursday, will be introduced in Parliament on Monday.

A centralised system at the national level is proposed to be created to manage distribution of appeals within the apex direct taxes body, said an income-tax department official.

This will be done by doing away with the watertight jurisdictions in appeals cases, something that has been already done away for processing of income tax returns.

Currently, tax officials are bound by their jurisdictions or areas assigned to them. For example, a commissioner appeals handling salaries cases has lesser number of cases but cannot look into corporate cases due to jurisdiction issues.

The idea of a centralised, jurisdiction-free appeals disposal system is likely to be one of the key recommendations of a panel set up last month to look into litigation.

The system would track the entire life cycle of appeals to ensure expeditious settlement through a more equitable distribution.

Legal experts however, feel this will not be enough. If the government is serious about reducing litigation then reasonable checks and balances need to be employed at the first stage itself whether a matter needs to be pursued further or not, said Aseem Chawla, partner, Amarchand Mangaldas, a leading law firm.

More than 1.78 lakh appeals were pending with commissioner appeals (income tax), the first level of litigation, as on February 1, 2010, with amounts locked up running into several thousands of crores.

The total outstanding tax demand against companies alone stood at Rs 75,509 crore, out of which only Rs 9,748 crore was recovered in 2009-10.

There would be a good proportion of genuine tax in the total demand locked in disputes, which if available can bolster government revenues and bring down fiscal deficit, said D K Srivastava, director, Madras School of Economics adding that the government should look for out-of-court settlement.

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