Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an interview to the Economic Times in which he talked at length about the menace of corruption in the income-tax and indirect taxes department.
He explained the Government would no longer tolerate corruption amongst Government officials.
Q. Amid a sustained crackdown on corruption, there is also concern about some actions by investigative agencies and tax authorities. What steps are being taken to allay such fears?
A. For the vast majority of income-tax payers, considerable progress has been made — today refunds are credited to bank accounts automatically within weeks without any need for the taxpayer to go and pursue it with the officer.
This has benefited literally crores of people and many have appreciated this.
We are starting faceless assessment of income-tax return. This will eliminate human interface to a large extent.
For tax evaders, we gave an amnesty scheme before demonetisation. Those who failed to use it may have suffered.
If we look at the number of searches in one year, it is not even 1,000. During 2017-18, number of groups where search operation took place was 582, and in 2018-19 it was 980.
When you see this number in the context of total number of tax payers, it will not be even 0.02%.
So you can understand how scarce these actions are.
However, it is a fact that some black sheep in the tax administration may have misused their powers and harassed taxpayers, either by targeting honest assesses or by taking excessive action for minor or procedural violations.
We have recently taken the bold step of compulsorily retiring a significant number of tax officials, and we will not tolerate this type of behaviour.
I have also instructed the revenue secretary to come up with measures to ensure that honest taxpayers are not harassed and those who commit minor or procedural violations are not subjected to disproportionate or excessive action.
The post of member (taxpayer services) will be activated in both the CBIC and CBDT by posting a very senior officer for this charge. They will be responsible for improving taxpayer services and will keep a watch on grievance redressal.
In order to reduce litigation and to effectively reduce taxpayer grievances and litigation, the monetary limits for filing of appeals by the tax authorities have been increased significantly.
This limit used to be Rs 25 lakh for appeal in Supreme Court, Rs 20 lakh for High Courts and Rs 10 lakh for income tax appellate tribunals.
In the last one year, these limits with respect to income tax cases have been increased to Rs 2 crore for SC, Rs 1 crore for HCs and Rs 50 lakh for appellate tribunals.
This will reduce pendency in higher courts and will allow departments to concentrate on litigation involving complex legal issues and high tax effect.