At the higher levels, India’s income tax department is terribly understaffed, with the number of serving officers being a quarter less than required and the shortage much graver at the top layer of chief commissioners where only a third of sanctioned posts are now filled, according to the department’s own assessment (see graphic).
But most outside analysts and a section of insiders feel the grouse is unjustified. The need for taxman-taxpayer interface has greatly diminished with the use of the electronic platforms, they point out. While 90% of tax filings are now done electronically, even the scrutiny of returns are selected automatically. So are the annual information database of high-value transactions collected and mined.
The I-T department’s total staff strength now is some 77,000 (including assistants, helpers and drivers), on par with its estimated requirement, but when it comes to officers (those up to the level of deputy/assistant commissioners), the actual number is 4,148 against the estimated need of 5,541 officers.
“The collection of taxes would automatically go up if there are more officers on the field. The programmes such as Income Declaration Scheme could have been undertaken much more efficiently if all senior posts were filled,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
However, this was virtually countered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself when he addressed officials from the two revenue boards — the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) — during the Gyan Sangam held here in June. He had said that only 8%
of the revenue come from scrutiny of returns. As much as 92% of direct tax revenue comes from tax deducted at source (TDS) of mostly salaried people, advance taxes and self assessment taxes, Modi had noted.
When asked about the scenario of “staff crunch”, a former CBDT chairperson told FE that there may be a crunch at the supervisory level because of a pending case in the Delhi High Court. “In 2013, double promotions were given to some officers (who were later demoted). These officials approached CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) where they lost the case and then moved the
Another income tax official said several promotions that are due have not been carried out and many of these have nothing to do with the pending litigation over double promotion. “It is a natural process when an officer is not given the promotion due for him it impacts the efficiency,” said the official