income tax: Tax dept asks officers working from home to chase large taxpayers for dues

New Delhi: A three-month extension in deadlines for tax payment and filing of returns notwithstanding, the Income-Tax Department has asked field formations to contact large taxpayers over phone or email to follow up on pending collections. Rakesh Gupta, Commissioner of Income Tax (Coordination & Systems), Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT), last week asked field formations to submit a daily report on follow-ups on pending tax collections from large taxpayers.

While most tax officers working from home in view of the lockdown announced to check the spread of Covid-19, it is possible to continue working in today’s connected world, the message to officials said.

“While the ITBA (Income Tax Business Application) platform is not available to the officers for discharging statutory functions, it is still possible to follow up the pending collection matters by contacting large taxpayers telephonically/electronically,” Gupta wrote.

The message came within days of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing three months extension in the deadline for filing of income tax returns as well as payment of delayed advanced tax, self-assessment tax, regular tax, tax deducted at source, tax collected source, and securities transaction tax.

The directive from CIT (C&S) has not gone down well with officers with their association writing to CBDT Chairman against it.

The joint body of Income Tax Employees Federation & Income Tax Gazetted Officers’ Association in the letter expressed surprise at the direction “to pressurize the assesses/defaulters to pay taxes when the Finance Minister has recently announced various extensions of the statutory compliances including the extension of the last date for the (dispute resolution scheme) Vivad se Vishvash scheme and also reduced the penal interest rates.”

“The people’s backlash in the wake of such pressures to pay taxes in the present scenario is very much evident,” the convenor Ravi Shankar wrote.

The association said it was not possible for assessing officers (AOs) to furnish a daily report for daily collection of current/arrear demand or applications received under the Vivad se Vishvash Scheme as the contact information of assessees/defaulters was not available at homes of the officers.Also, the officers did not have access to the ITBA platform.

It asked the chairman to direct the authorities below him “to remain positive, sensitive towards the present situation, adopt a humane approach and avoid pressing the panic button within the department”.

The Finance Minister had on March 24 announced an extension in last for filing income tax returns for 2018-19 fiscal to June 30 as well as linking of income tax PAN with biometric ID Aadhaar by a similar three months.

Also, a three-month extension in the deadline was announced for those opting for the tax dispute resolution scheme ‘Vivad se Vishwas’ scheme by paying the principal amount. Previously the deadline for payment of such amount was March 31 and any payment after that was to be charged with an additional 10 per cent. Now, no additional 10 per cent amount requires to be paid if payment made by June 30, 2020.

Similarly, “due dates for issue of notice, intimation, notification, approval order, sanction order, filing of appeal, furnishing of return, statements, applications, reports, any other documents and time limit for completion of proceedings by the authority and any compliance by the taxpayer including investment in saving instruments or investments for rollover benefit of capital gains under Income Tax Act, Wealth Tax Act, Prohibition of Benami Property Transaction Act, Black Money Act, STT law, CTT Law, Equalization Levy law, Vivad Se Vishwas law where the time limit is expiring between March 20, 2020, to June 29, 2020, shall be extended to June 30, 2020,” an official statement issued on March 24 had said.

For delayed payments of advanced tax, self-assessment tax, regular tax, TDS, TCS, equalization levy, STT, CTT made between March 20, 2020 and June 30, 2020, the reduced interest rate at 9 per cent instead of 12/18 per cent per annum will be charged for this period, it had said adding no late fee/penalty would be charged for the delay.

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