Ahmedabad, November 10, 2017

Accomplishing a task online should be easier than going to a place in person. But income tax assessees don’t seem to agree.

Figures reveal that only 6.47% assesses from the State who were sent scrutiny notices last year opted for e-assessment. While the option was available only in Ahmedabad last year, it has been opened to the whole state this year. In e-assessment, the entire process of submitting proofs and replying to queries is done online. Against 46,348 scrutiny notices being assessed this year, only 3,003 (6.47%) taxpayers opted to reply to I-T queries online. Tax expert Mukesh Patel said, “Before the e-assessment module was incorporated into the system on November 1, people could send in replies with relevant documents to the department only by e-mail. In some cases, 100-150 pages of documents are to be sent which is not possible by mail.”

Ahmedabad leads the pack

Out of the 19,011 taxpayers from Ahmedabad who were issued notices, as many as 2,986 opted for e-assessment, the highest in the State. The remaining 16,025 opted to go in person to explain their case to I-T officials. None of the 6,684 from Vadodara who were issued notices opted for e-assessment. In Surat, only five out of 12,492 notices opted to be e-assessed while the number is 12 out of 8,161notices from Rajkot. (Data till October 31, 2017)

Why so few takers?

An I-T officer (ITO) told Mirror that taxpayers, tax experts and CAs lacked confidence regarding online assessment. “They feel that if documents are sent online, they would not be able to explain to the assessing officer (AO) as to which documents are to be read along with which ones. They fear this may lead to misreading of laws that may cause order to be passed against them or their clients,” the officer said. However, he hoped that online assessment would increase in future. CA Chintan Patel, president of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) Ahmedabad said, “The system faces trust deficit currently but I believe there will be more takers in future as thinking patterns change.” CA Rajni Shah, chairman of the legal committee at CA Association of Ahmedabad, echoed the same feeling. He said, “In limited scrutiny, CAs fear that despite submission of all documents, there may be problems which may lead to an order against their clients. So they prefer explaining their cases to the AOs in person.”

Less staff, more work

While the number of AOs is less, there is a lot of work to be done. The notices are time-barred and all orders have to be passed by December 31. After that, no investigation can be carried out. An officer said there are about 430 AOs in Gujarat, meaning every officer has 107 files to process. CA Rajni Shah said, “Some officers ask for hard copies of documents even if they have been submitted online.” An officer said, “The new module for online assessment was implemented in November, and AOs have to finish work by December 31. Since tax consultants understand this is not possible, they voluntarily come to file manually. Had it been implemented at the beginning of the year, more people would have gone for e-assessment.” An I-T officer said that old computer systems, internet problems and software amalgamation issues need to be sorted out. However, he assured that next year the department would be ready to handle e-assessment.

Old-school officers

Of the total number of ITOs, only half are directly inducted at the post. The rest comprise senior employees promoted to the post. A senior officer said, “50% of ITOs are promotees from clerk level and constitute 80% of AOs. They have become AOs very late in their careers and are not inclined and/or are unable to understand the system quickly. So, they will prefer the manual system.”

[Ahmedabad Mirror]