Taking a leaf out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation book, where a troubleshooting window was created to engage with taxpayers, the Income Tax Department has decided to replicate the initiative for direct taxes too, opening a chat window to address taxpayers queries on a real-time basis. The I-T Department’s newly launched “online chat” service for taxpayers is available as a window on its website, with an icon prompting “Live Chat Online – ask your query”. The questions posed by individual taxpayers will be answered by a team of experts from the tax department, as well as independent tax practitioners fielded by the department. A person can enter the “chat room” by furnishing an email-id and then pose questions as a guest, alongside an option to e-mail the entire chat to the taxpayers’ respective e-mail ids. The Department, however, has specified that the replies should not be interpreted as clarifications.
“The replies are based on the opinion of the expert and, in no manner, it should be interpreted as the clarification by the Income-tax Department on any matter,” states its note. The Department is likely to consider adding more features to the online chat system based on the feedback. The attempt is to roll out “jurisdiction-free assessment”, a faceless interaction between taxpayers and tax officers an initiative that has the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was conveyed by him during the tax department’s annual conference, Rajaswa Gyan Sangam, this year. Within three days of the rollout of GST, amid sporadic protests by textile sector players and small traders, a team of about 10 central government officers was stationed at the GST Feedback and Action Room of the Finance Ministry to monitor real-time feedback on the transition from across the country. While the team was deployed to address basic queries related to GST, it would forward the complex questions to designated officials for prompt responses. External feedback channels, like Twitter, have also been used by the CBEC to address the transitional issues being faced by taxpayers under GST.
Last year, the I-T department set up two dedicated directorates · Directorate of Taxpayer Services I (‘TPS-I’) and Directorate of Taxpayer Services II (‘TPS-II’) for delivery and monitoring of taxpayer services in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). The TPS-I unit was formed to oversee and coordinate all matters relating to grievances pertaining to taxpayers falling within the jurisdiction of assessing officers across the country and devise an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism for taxpayers in field offices. The TPS-II unit looks after the e-services for taxpayers, such as issues related to processing of I-T returns, issue of refunds, demand verification and PAN-related grievances.