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E-Assessment: I-T returns vetting now only in ‘faceless’ mode

The taxpayer would have 15 days to respond to the notice and file a response to the Centre.

The government on Thursday notified a scheme to revamp the assessment of income-tax (I-T) returns by making it completely faceless, that is, where the assessee and the assessing official would be anonymous to each other. The e-assessment Scheme 2019, however, would provide an opportunity to the assessee to seek a personal hearing but it would have to be conducted exclusively through video conferencing.

According to the scheme, the income-tax department would set-up a National e-Assessment Centre, which would serve notices on the assessees specifying the issue for selection of their case for assessment. The taxpayer would have 15 days to respond to the notice and file a response to the Centre. Thereafter, the Centre would assign the case selected for the purposes of e-assessment to a specific assessment unit in any one regional e-assessment centre through an automated allocation system.

All communications between taxpayers and the Centre would would be exchanged exclusively by electronic mode, and all internal communications between the national and regional e-assessment centres and various units would also be conducted electronically.

Further, the notification said: “A person shall not be required to appear either personally or through authorised representative in connection with any proceedings under this Scheme before the income-tax authority at the National e-assessment Centre or Regional e-assessment Centre or any unit set up under this Scheme.”

However, any examination or recording of the statement of the assessee would be conducted by the department exclusively through video conferencing, including use of any telecommunication application software which supports video telephony in accordance with the procedure laid down by the board, the notification said.

The CBDT has been running pilot projects on faceless assessment in a few major cities and testing the feasibility of implementing this new regime of tax assessment for the last few years. The “faceless and nameless” e-assessment initiative was launched to reduce visits by taxpayers to income tax offices and their interface with the taxman, which is aimed at bringing anonymity in proceedings using technology.

“This man-to-tech approach under e-assessment scheme would save time for all stakeholders and bring in due transparency in the assessment proceedings. While the idea of e-assessments, is in principle, an outstanding one, the administrative systems and procedures need to be developed to ensure that it does not result in an uncalled-for injustice to the taxpayers,” Rakesh Nangia, managing partner at Nangia Advisors (Andersen Global) said.

Frank D’Souza, partner and leader corporate & international tax , PwC India, said: “Naturally, in an initiative of this kind the process will evolve and get refined over a period of time. For example the process does not appear to envisage cases where the taxpayer has the right to apply to the dispute resolution panel.”

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Source: Financial Express