The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has notified a new centralised communication scheme for serving e-notices to income tax-payers as part of the government’s ambitious plan to usher in a countrywide paperless system of interface between the taxman and the assessee. The scheme stipulates that an internet-based independent centralised communication centre (CCC) will be established in the Income Tax department that will “issue notice” to any person (under section 133C of the Income Tax Act), who is required to furnish information or documents, for the purpose of verification, to the taxman. The CBDT, the policy-making body of the tax department, said in the notification, which was issued on February 22, that the scheme would ensure that “no person shall be required to appear personally or through authorised representative before the designated authority (of the I-T department) at the centralised communication centre in connection with any proceedings.” The notification, a copy of which is with PTI, stipulates that such notices will be issued by the designated tax department officials, who would only use their digital signature and send them to the assessees through e-mail, followed by an intimation through a text message. A machine-readable device kept at the CCC will receive the responses from the taxpayers.
The CCC has also been tasked with running a “sustained campaign” to ensure compliance (by the taxpayer) by sending emails, SMSes, reminders, letters and phone calls. It will also host a call centre to answer the queries and grievances of the taxpayers. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech earlier this month, had announced that the electronic assessment of tax returns would be launched in the country, which would “almost eliminate person-to-person contact, leading to greater efficiency and transparency”. “The notification of the scheme is a step forward to roll out the e-assessment project pan-India. Few more orders to enable the new regime will be issued in the coming days,” a senior official said. CBDT Chairman Sushil Chandra, in a post -budget interview to PTI, had said the e-assessment of a taxpayer would henceforth be handled by two officers, instead of the current system involving a single assessing officer (AO).
He had also said the scheme would be launched in all the cities where the I-T department had an officer of the rank of principal commissioner. The CBDT chief had said the pilot project conducted over the last few years had been successful and that 60,000 limited scrutiny cases and a few full scrutiny cases were conducted by the department till now. The new regime of e-communication is expected to be voluntary and taxpayers can take a call on whether to conduct their dealings over the e-system or through the existing procedure of manual submission of documents by visiting the tax office. Once the taxpayers register themselves on the official I-T web portal, they will get a confirmation through a text message as well as e-mail. The functionality to conduct the e-proceedings would be available for all types of notices, questionnaires and letters issued under various sections of the I-T Act, the CBDT had earlier said.