CBDT notifies emails as new communication mode with taxpayers

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has notified use of emails as the new mode of communication between the taxman and taxpayers, as part of the government’s e-initiative to reduce human interface and complaints of harassment and corruption in conducting tax related jobs.

The amendment in the Income Tax Act was also required as the I-T department has recently launched a ‘pilot project’ of sending email queries, notices and summons to taxpayers while processing cases of scrutiny.

According to notification 89 issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the apex policy-making body of the tax department, an amendment has been made in the Section 282 of the I-T Act (Service of notice) allowing for inclusion of taxpayers or tax paying entities’ email as the new mode of official communication along with the existing modes like courier, postage or departmental dispatch.

Henceforth, the taxman can now send official communication to “email address available in the income-tax return furnished by the addressee to which the communication relates or the email address available in the last income-tax return furnished by the addressee or in the case of addressee being a company, email address of the company as available on the website of Ministry of Corporate Affairs”.

“Also, any email address made available by the addressee to the income-tax authority or any person authorised by such income-tax authority,” the CBDT notification issued in this regard earlier this week said.

The department, in order to reduce the taxpayers’ visit to the IT office, had launched the ‘pilot’ project and the first set of e-communications have been decided to be mailed to 100 chosen people each in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai regions.

The CBDT had recently 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 said.

Former CBDT Chairperson Anita Kapur, in a recent interview to PTI, had said that the “first-of-it’s kind initiative” was aimed at making life easy for taxpayers.

“We have been thinking how can we make life easier for taxpayers especially for those who are in the middle and the slightly higher tax bracket.

So, now we are thinking of allowing that when a notice is issued in an assessment or scrutiny case, the taxpayer can send the department an e-response,” she had said.

The former CBDT boss had also said the purpose of introducing the system was to reduce the interface between the taxpayer and the AO.

“The taxpayer can send documents over email, scan them, upload them and it’s over. It (email-based scrutiny session) should be over and should not go beyond that.

“This is the way we are trying to address the issues of compliance and limiting the interface between the taxman and the taxpayer. This will be a sea change in our tax administration,” Kapur said.

Tax experts say the initiative will also ensure privacy of a taxpayers’ communication with his AO and the tax department.

The CBDT chief had said she was aware of instances where the taxpayers complained that the AO raised numerous queries upon meeting the assesses despite their earlier order sheets having mention of only a few queries.

The department will now soon “specify the procedure, formats and standards for ensuring secure transmission of electronic communication.”

Source: The Economic Times

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