New Delhi: The Income Tax department has decided to extend its ambitious email-based pilot assessment project to two more cities, in addition to the existing five metros, in an effort to ensure paperless communication regime with the taxpayers.
The department has now added Hyderabad and Kolkata under the scheme and soon a media publicity campaign will be unleashed in these cities including the earlier ones of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai for those who want to opt for the pilot project and those whose cases have been picked up for scrutiny assessment by the taxman.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), in a recent order, has cleared the inclusion of the two cities in the much-touted project that is aimed to end corruption and bring hassle-free experience for the taxpayer. The CBDT, early this year, had notified the format and procedure for the taxman and taxpayers to usher the pilot project. As per a latest directive issued and accessed by PTI, the Board has also asked the taxman to acknowledge documents in physical form if they are "voluminous".
"The project is not binding for taxpayers and those willing can opt for it by talking to their Assessing Officer (AO)," a senior official said. An official notification had been earlier issued which spells out the procedure, formats and standards for ensuring "secured transmission" of emails between the AO of the department and the assessee stating all communication between the two sides will be done through PDF file format and over bonafide email ids.
This followed an amendment made by the CBDT in the Income Tax Act in December last year, which allowed emails to become the new mode of interaction tool between the AO and the tax- paying individual. Under the new procedures, the taxman will send emails, for issuing notices and summons, through the government registered '@incometax.gov.in' email domain and the attached PDF document will have his or her designation and signature. In response to such an IT notice, taxpayers will have to use their registered email id with the department to submit the details called for, in a Portable Document Format (PDF).
"In case the total size of the attachments exceed 10 MB then the assessee shall split the attachment and send it in as many emails as may be required to adhere to the limit of attachment size of 10 MB per email," the CBDT notification had said. It said, "any email, in response to the notice issued by the AO, received from the primary email address of the assessee, shall be considered as a valid response to the notice".
The CBDT, in the same notification, had also mandated that the taxman will maintain an audit trail of all e-communication with a taxpayer in the central database of the IT department for future reference and as a record management of the entire transaction. The new directives also allow a taxpayer to physically submit the reply of such e-notices in case there is a technical problem in their email like a situation of email failure or a full mailbox.
"This shall be treated as adequate compliance," it had said. The department, in order to reduce the taxpayers' visit to the IT office, had launched the 'pilot' project in this regard late last year and the first set of e-communications were decided to be mailed to 100 chosen people each in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai regions.
This was done after the CBDT had asked the department to "initiate the concept of using email for corresponding with taxpayers and sending through emails the questionnaire, notice etc at the time of scrutiny proceedings and getting responses from them".
"This would eliminate the necessity of visiting the Income Tax offices by the taxpayers, particularly in smaller cases, involving limited issues and where taxpayer is able to provide details required by the Assessing Officer (AO) without necessitating his physical presence," the order had said....