Mumbai, October 20, 2017

Employees and officers unions of the Income Tax Department have warned of a nationwide stir against the implementation of the new advance software package–IT Biz Application (ITBA)–from October 1, and asked the department to delay the same by at least three months.

They have set an October 31 deadline to the department to meet their demands, which include delaying the implementation of the new software to January 1 and giving them time to learn the new system, and also to stop hiring technical experts on a contractual basis. The department replaced the existing AST software with ITBA in the seven largest metros in a phased manner. The department believes that new ITBA system can expedite all pending cases, barring e-mail based scrutiny cases, to e-proceeding based scrutiny cases. The strike call has been given by the I-T Employees Federation and Income Tax Gazetted Officers’ Association. But they have not finalised a date for the stir yet. The decision to go on a nationwide stir was taken after their meeting with CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra was inconclusive. Their meeting with the CBDT member BD Bishnoi was also inconclusive.

When contacted, a department official admitted that they have given a tool-down notice without specifying a time, and added this shows the unions don’t want to work on the new software. “Yes, the whole assessment process has  been hit as the staff neither want to work on the new software nor allow those trained people on contract to do their job. All this has hampered the entire process,” said a senior I-T official here. The unions have urged the Central Board of Direct Taxes to delay nationwide implementation to January 1 so that they can better familiarise with the new software. The new software is developed by TCS and works on the Oracle platform. Officers also want certain loopholes in ITBA to be removed so that it becomes a more effective tool.

Meanwhile, the unions said the stir is also to protest the practice of hiring trained contractual staff from outside. “We’ve given time till October 31 to take a decision to extend the ITBA implementation to January 1 so that it can be effectively implemented more effectively,” Rupak Sarkar, joint convenor, the I-T Employees Federation and Income Tax Gazetted Officers’ Association, told PTI. “If the department refused our demand, we are all set to go in for a nationwide stir. We’ve convened a meeting on November 10 in New Delhi to chalk out our further strategy on the matter,” he said. “The extended time may be used to make the staff familiar with the new software and remove certain loopholes in the system.”

However, it can be noted that the ITBA implementation has been gradual as the department introduced the e-mail based scrutiny assessment in the five largest metros in November 2015, which was extended to two more metros in May 2016. In June, it notified the new 143(2) notice format to bring all new possible scrutiny cases under the ambit of e- proceeding with the consent of the respective assesses.

On their opposition to contractual hiring, Sarkar said currently, there are 32,000 vacancies at various levels. As against this the department has hired 10,000 officers on contractual basis to work on the new software. Sarkar said the unions want the department to stop employing outsourced staff and claimed that they have already successfully ended outsourcing in Mumbai, Andhra and Odisha offices. He noted that contractual staff are still working in some Northern states.

In a letter written to the CBDT chairman on October 9, unions demanded three months for the new software rollout. The unions feel that ITBA, being a much advanced platform than the AST, needs higher bandwidth and better infrastructure on one hand and better training to handle the new system properly.

Bhaskar Bhattacharya, joint convener of the joint action council, said, “We recently called up on the CBDT chairman on the issue. However, he told us that since the new software had already been implemented in seven cities, it could not be delayed further for a national rollout.” Bhattacharya said they have also requested the CBDT chairman to expedite the process of filling up over 32,000 vacant positions at various levels at the earliest.

On the loopholes in the system, the letter said the entire ITBA module is ill-performing due to dismally slow server speed in every place it is working on OFC lines and even those connected to the V-SAT stations are not better.

Due to slow speed, commands given to ITBA take lots of time to take effect and many a time even after a substantial time lag, reports are not generated. Also, low servers are delaying MIS reports.

[The Financial Express]