Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out a new platform for filing income tax returns to ensure a transparent tax environment by eliminating physical interface between tax authorities and taxpayers.
“Our effort is that our tax system should be seamless, painless and faceless,” Modi said after launching the Transparent Taxation Platform and a taxpayer charter outlining rights and obligations of taxpayers through video conferencing.
The measures include a directive that takes away powers of regular assessing officers to conduct surveys, restricting such powers to only the investigation and tax deducted at source wing, that too only after authorisation from a senior official of director general or principal commissioner rank.
The prime minister urged those who owe taxes to come forward and honestly pay their dues to contribute to nation building, saying only 15 million paying taxes in a population of 1.3 billion was too low. “The new platform, apart from being faceless, is also aimed at boosting the confidence of the taxpayer and making him or her fearless,” he said.
Faceless appeal that allows a taxpayer to contest any tax claim without any personal interaction with authorities—the next step after faceless assessment—will begin from September 25.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “With dynamic jurisdiction and team-based assessment, taxpayers can respond to the scrutiny notice online… Speedy completion of cases is another hallmark of the scheme.”
Notices, if any, will be sent only by the centralised computer system, and taxpayer can respond to them electronically without the requirement of visiting a tax office or meeting any official. Further, most assessment orders will have to be passed by National e-Assessment Centre through the Faceless Assessment Scheme, 2019.
The prime minister said this will end the era of “jaan pehchan” (acquaintance) to get scrutiny or notices settled.
Industry captains and experts welcomed the initiative, saying it will minimise grey areas, eliminate discretion, and promote transparency and certainty. The move will help make India a competitive economy amid a changing global order by improving ease of doing business, while instilling confidence among Indian industry, they said.
As per the Taxpayers’ Charter, taxpayers will have the right to choose their representatives, lodge complaints and seek disposal of issues in a timely manner. In turn, they must maintain accurate records, disclose required information, and pay taxes on time. The charter enumerates rights and obligations of taxpayers.
The CBDT amended the E-assessment Scheme, 2019 for implementing faceless assessments, under which in-charge of the National e-Assessment Centre can refer the case to jurisdictional assessing officer at any stage of assessment, with prior board approval. The in-charge can lay down circumstances where personal hearing will be allowed, which will be notified separately.
The scheme will also include 'best judgment assessments' in cases where the taxpayer is not cooperating with the tax authorities.