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Income Tax Assessing Officers Asked To Share Email ID, Phone Numbera
August, 31st 2016

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has directed the income tax assessing officers (AO) to mention their email IDs and telephone numbers in all the notices issued by them to the taxpayers, after several assesses complained to it that they were unable to communicate with taxman over the internet in the absence of their contact details.

The newly launched paperless system of e-assessment income tax cases, which is a "high priority" and flagship programme for the policy-making body of the tax department, does not want to leave any stone unturned in ensuring that the scheme remains a hit among taxpayers and its procedures easy to comply with.

Official sources said a number of taxpayers recently informed the CBDT that the AO was not mentioning their contact details like official phone number, email ID and fax number in the notices they issue to them, so they were unable to communicate with them over the internet, thereby defeating the very purpose of the scheme.

CBDT in an order said that non-furnishing of contact details causes "inconvenience" to the taxpayer in case he/she needs to seek any clarification from the AO.

It directed that AOs should "invariably mention their official email-ids along with official telephone numbers/fax number in all notices, letters and communications being issued by them to the taxpayers".

"The directions should be followed strictly," it said in a communication to all regional heads of the I-T department.

It also asked the top officers to conduct "random" checks to see if the directive was being complied with.

In the cases of scrutiny notices, where such details about the AO are not mentioned, these should be added and notices be re-sent to the assessees.

CBDT had launched a pilot project for paperless scrutiny assessments last year in order to reduce taxpayers' visit to the tax office and eliminate their interface with the taxman thereby reducing the issue of corruption or harassment.

Under the project, the first set of e-communications was mailed to assesses in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai region. The Finance Ministry recently added Hyderabad and Kolkata after the scheme picked up well.

CBDT aims to end corruption and bring hassle-free experience for the taxpayers who undergo a time-consuming scrutiny assessment procedure which entails production of a number of documents and financial statements.

The department said it had brought only about one per cent of cases under the said procedure.

As per official data, the department in the first five cities has completed scrutiny assessments in 1,001 cases till now, after a total of 6,481 assesses were contacted of which 1,812 responded positively.

The CBDT is also mulling seeking taxpayers' consent to opt for the scheme at the stage of filing income tax returns (ITRs) itself.

Under this procedure, the taxman will send emails, for issuing notices and summons, through the government-registered '@incometax.gov.in' email domain and the attached PDF document will have his or her designation and signature.

In response to such I-T notice, taxpayers will have to submit the details called for, in a Portable Document Format (PDF) through their email-id registered with the department. The project was launched after CBDT had asked the I-T department to "initiate the concept of using emails for correspondence with taxpayers and sending through emails the questionnaire, notice etc. at the time of scrutiny proceedings and getting responses from them".

"This would eliminate the necessity of visiting the Income Tax offices by the taxpayers, particularly in smaller cases, involving limited issues and where taxpayer is able to provide details required by the AO without necessitating his physical presence," it had said.

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