In an exclusive interview with Free Press Journal, SK Gupta, Principal Chief Commissioner, Mumbai and CBDT Member explains the implementation of faceless e-assessment an how it has helped reduce human interface between the taxpayer and the income tax department.
What is the experience so of the implementation of faceless e-assessment?
This is first time that we are doing the faceless e-assessment. We have tackled the issues with regard to infrastructure, manpower, software and hardware. That is the reason we have selected out of 3 lakh cases 58,319 income tax cases being taken by the National e-assessment Centre. This is spread over eight cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
We were able to function because of the Covid 19 pandemic up to March but for last three months we were not able to function. We have started re-functioning only in July. We have been able to complete about 8,700 cases so far despite tackling all the initial hiccups in preparations. Our target to finish all 58,319 is mid-September by assessing 5,000 per week.
In all 3,130 tax personnel including 600 plus officers were involved in the implementation of faceless assessment.
Which cases are being selected for e-assessment?
Cases are of individuals, businesses, firms, companies small, medium and big. There are smaller as well as bigger cases also. It is a good mix of all types of cases because we wanted to see that our system functions properly and solve problems in the implementation.
If there is a tax payer in Mumbai his case will be tackled not by Mumbai, Pune or Thane but will go to Chennai or Bangalore or Kolkata. Those officers will see the case. The questionnaire will be prepared and then whatever reply will be sent by the tax payer that will again will be seen by those officers so that no wrong decision is made. That reply will go to the Delhi computer system which will send the reply back to the taxpayer who will not know who has seen his file. Neither the taxpayer will know which officer has seen the file nor will he know in which city it has been assessed.
What is the difference between the earlier assessment and faceless assessment?
No hard copy is asked from the taxpayer. If some reply is not correct and additional information is sought. This will be reviewed. In this we way, the tax authorities will be able to issue free and just order to the taxpayer. Due to pandemic we have not received the taxpayer’s response. We are currently in the midst of designing the response.
One thing is clear because of e-assessment nobody called the taxpayer or submit more papers. In the earlier system the assesse or taxpayer’s CA had to come to the income tax office multiple times. They would have sit for long hours now the taxpayer may get maximum two or three notices depending on complexity. The taxpayer can submit file from home or office. There is no waiting at all. Earlier, depending upon the mood of the officer the additional tax could be levied. Now it is set by the officer’s boss and again it will be reviewed by tow three others.
How will the faceless assessment help curb corruption in the taxation system?
If the case is being assessed in Chennai and if the taxpayer do not know who has done it. There is no human interface so there will not be harassment and corruption. It will remove the corruption. Going digital there will be dynamic jurisdiction where nobody knows.