PM tells taxmen to bridge trust deficit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged tax administrators to bridge the trust gap with taxpayers and turn mentors, while setting an ambitious goal of almost doubling the taxpayer base to 10 crore from around 5.4 crore at present.
Inaugurating a two-day meeting, the PM urged senior direct and indirect tax officers to remove the “fear of harassment“ from minds of assessees and emphasized that their behaviour should be “soft and sober“, minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha told reporters after Modi's closed-door meeting that lasted longer than planned. This was the first such meeting of tax officials with the PM.
The tax department has been under scrutiny after taxpayers complained of harassment and the BJP government coined the term “tax terrorism“ to describe notices sent out to large companies, ranging from Vodafone to Cairn and Shell, for “recovery of dues“ that ended up in litigation. Although the government has sought to streamline processes by insisting on e-filing and reducing face-to-face interface, the PM's statement indicates that there is a lot of scope for improvement.
“There is no shortage of good officers and there is no shortage of good people. So, why is there a trust deficit?“ Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman Atulesh Jindal quoted the PM as saying. Modi said citizens were generally honest and cited the example of voluntarily giving up of cooking gas subsidy . He said the fear of repeated queries after paying taxes was deterring people from filing returns.
Although he did not talk about black money , the PM pointed out that nearly 92% of direct taxes came through advance tax payments, self-assessment and tax deducted at source, with 42,000-strong cadre of tax officials and junior staff chasing the remaining 8%. He suggested that the tax department should look to expand the base although he did not provide any deadline to meet the target of 10 crore income tax assessees.
The meeting began with Modi spending the first 30 minutes listening to officers. The 15-odd officers who spoke flagged issues ranging from dilemma between tax enforcement and offering taxpayer-friendly services to putting in place a tax facilitation law that will begin with framing rules in simple and local language.
The PM responded by saying that the officers should bridge the trust deficit.

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