Tax Centres to Help Taxpayers, Prod Officials
The long arms of the taxman, aided by a little technology, are now putting the fear of god among the department's own employees. The I-T department's plans to set up about 730 electronic complaint tracking centres across the country to enable tax payers to get quick status checks on their tax refunds and pending permissions and clearances, will also serve the purpose of putting pressure on IT officials to deliver services on time. The system will also indicate which officials have been slow to clear work load. Once all proposed ayakar seva/sampark kendras (ASKs) are in place in the next three years, the tax department will cease to be a faceless bureaucracy for individual and corporate tax payers in the country. The system will electronically number every complaint received and these would be replied to either by phone or post as quickly as possible, said an employee of an ASK opened at the income tax department office at Rajasthan's Alwar, the sixth in the state.
So far, the department has opened close to 30 such centres all over India to answer tax payers’ queries and to act on complaints. Atulesh Jindal, chief commissioner, income tax, Rajasthan, said the department now uses information technology to identify tax evaders and provide services to taxpayers.
“All taxpayer requests go to the computers of not only the assessment officer, but also to the systems of his or her supervisors and commissioners of income tax, who monitor timely delivery of the department’s services,” he said.
This puts pressure on individual officials to explain delays to their superiors and taxpayers. In case of electronically-filed returns, the department has a time-frame of six months for making refunds along with interest. The time-frame is nine months in the case of other returns. Tax payers who do not get their refunds within this period can now get an explanation from the department through ASK in their respective areas. The complaint tracking system, some of which have ISO certification, will also be subject to independent third-party audit to ensure efficiency.“Use of technology has helped not only in delivery of services, but also in tax collections,” said Jindal.
Rajasthan reported a 27% year-on-year jump in direct tax receipts in 2012-13 at R9,800 crore. Tax officers now compare the declared income of assesses with information obtained from various sources about high-value transactions, including bank deposits and property transactions where PAN has not been quoted. If the declared income is suspected to be understated, notices are issued. Despite the economic growth projected to have fallen to a decade low of 5% in 2012-13, the department has collected nearly R5.5 lakh crore, a shade lower than the originally estimated R5.6 lakh crore.
Financial Express, New Delhi, 23-04-2013