IT Department Sees Early Good Response To Ad Campaigns

New Delhi: | Updated: Jul 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
In continuance of its focus since the last two years, the Directorate of Income Tax has its task cut out for it this year also: increase voluntary compliance by educating the public about their liabilities under law, specially targeting the group that is on the threshold of joining the ranks of tax-payers. Another objective is also to improve the image of the taxman and project him as a normal friendly person. To achieve these objectives, the Department has been going in for special campaigns, which are over and above the usual print inserts in daily newspapers.

While last year the focus had been on the one-by-six criterion, this year the focus of the IT Dept’s special campaign has been on PAN (permanent account number).

While the budget for last year’s campaign that ran from August to November, 2001, was Rs 11.2 crore, this year’s PAN campaign, which will run for a month (till July 31) only, was allocated a budget of Rs 4 crore.

Says Mr N Mishra, Director-General of Income Tax (Admn),‘‘The actual impact of the campaign can be evaluated only after July 31, when majority of salaried returns will be filed. However, one good indication of the response can be the fact that during the special 3-4 day camp held in Delhi alone this month, 60,000 applications for PAN were received. The PAN campaign is aimed at building up a database and keeping track of financial transactions.’’

Spelling out the positive fallout of the one-by-six campaign, he says,‘‘Of the total 57.26 lakh new assesses in 2001-02, 31.59 lakh were added under the 1/6 criterion. It also brought within the ambit 4,989 cities, towns and urban conglomerates, defined under the 1991 census, from the earlier 40 cities.’’

The PAN campaign comprises a TV commercial and print advertisements. The TVC has three ads with the twin target of educating the public on the necessity for obtaining a PAN number, filing returns in time and also portraying the taxman as a friendly man. According to Grey Worldwide, which made the creatives for the TVC,‘‘One of the objectives is to mellow down the image of the taxman and make the process of tax-paying a friendlier affair. The taxman is shown as a normal man with problems of a normal kind. So in each ad he finds himself in a difficult situation like getting stuck in the lift or becoming the victim of a pickpocket.’’

While the PAN campaign ends on July 31, the department is running print ads concurrently to educate the public on its other schemes, like ‘Suvidha,’ which offers the facility of bulk filing of returns by employers, for which the due date in August 31. From August it may once again run its one-by-six campaign, since the due date for that category is October.

There are also moves to make the entire ‘Suvidha’ process computerised, for which the necessary software has to be approved by the IT dept.‘‘Filing returns on a magnetic media will make it easier to process. We expect a good response to this,’’ says Mr Mishra.

The IT dept has spent Rs 142 crore so far on its computerisation drive since 1995. It anticipates an expenditure of an additional Rs 250 crore to achieve total networking that will work round the clock, 365 days a year.

Another objective is to reduce interface with tax officers to the barest minimum. For this it plans to restructure its forms for easy computerisation, so that the subjective element is completely removed. ‘‘Our aim is to reach a point where the computer should be able to pick up the cases for scrutiny on the basis of discrepencies detected,’’ says Mr Mishra.

The country currently has a total number of three crore tax payers and the dept’s target is to touch five crore by 2003-04.