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Nominate only senior officials to handle big tax demands: Government to revenue department
August, 31st 2015

In the backdrop of ongoing high profile tax disputes involving blue-blooded multinational corporations (MNCs) like Vodafone, Cairn and, more recently, E*Trade Financial Corp, the government has told the revenue department to nominate only senior officials to handle big tax demands in an effort to avert further controversies

About a fortnight ago, the finance ministry asked all principal chief commissioners of the income tax department to stop sending officers below the level of additional or joint commissioners for representation before the Authority for Advance Rulings (AAR), a quasi-judicial forum to consider tax disputes involving overseas entities.

"The quality of representation before AAR is an important aspect," Tatung Padi, undersecretary at the ministry, wrote in a circular dated August 18. "It has been brought to the notice of the CBDT that many a time officers of the level of deputy or assistant commissioner of income tax are being nominated for representing cases before the AAR, who are not able to effectively resent the departmental views on complex issues."

Similar to other forums including the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Securities Appellate Tribunal and the recently formed National Green Tribunal, AAR's rulings can only be challenged in high courts. Any non-resident individual or company trying to set up a joint venture in India in partnership with a non-resident or a wholly-owned subsidiary of a foreign company can approach the AAR to ascertain its tax liability.

Legal experts see the decision as a positive move in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to make it easier to do business in India. Senior representations from the tax department would mean less adjournments and speedy disposal of applications, thereby enhancing sentiments and confidence of foreign investors.

"The AAR deals with complex issues pertaining to taxability or otherwise of cross-border transactions in the case of non-residents," said Sameer Gupta, partner and tax leader, financial services, at EY.

"Over the years, as FDI flows have increased, securing tax certainty on cross-border business/investment transactions has become a prerequisite for multinational corporations. To that extent, requiring senior tax officials to represent in the AAR is a step in the right direction," he said.

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