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Jurisdiction-free income-tax assessment on the cards
September, 18th 2017

The success of the pilot, to be first carried out in New Delhi and Mumbai, will determine if the plan has to be expanded all over the country, a senior revenue department official said.

To check corruption and harassment, the tax department will soon launch a pilot of "jurisdiction-free assessment" where a tax officer will not get to know identity of the assessee as allotment of cases will be done randomly by computers rather than on the basis of area.

The success of the pilot, to be first carried out in New Delhi and Mumbai, will determine if the plan has to be expanded all over the country, a senior revenue department official said.

The country is divided into 18 tax zones. Taxpayers are assessed by the officers of the region they are based in.

Under the new system, the assessment zones will be demolished and a special computer software will allocate a taxpayer to any officer anywhere in the country, he said.

The identities of the taxpayer and his assessing officer will be hidden in a bid to check corruption and harassment assessees face at the hands of over-zealous officers. The tax department is working on a major reform initiative to make compliance taxpayer friendly and a 13- member committee of tax officers has been formed to look into implementation issues, the official said.

But before the country-wide launch, the pilot is being run to spot implementation issues.

"After you initiate jurisdiction-free assessment, a taxpayer might say he wants to meet the tax officer face to face and explain his case. What do we do in that case? Can we deny the taxpayer an option to meet his assessment officer (AO)? Say, we allow them to have video conferencing, then we will have to set up the facility in tax offices. These are issues we need to address," he explained.

Among draft recommendations of a technical committee submitted to the CBDT, the apex policy-making body on income tax matters, the tax department wants to move to the jurisdiction-free I-T assessment where the taxpayer will not have to meet his assessing officer face to face.

The official also said the proposals were broadly reflected in the Prime Minister's speech in Rajaswa Gyan Sangam earlier this month when he had said the relationship between the tax department and an assessee should be that of an examiner and an examinee where either party does not know each other.

Modi, the official said, had also called for a redrafting of the archaic income tax laws so that these become simpler. The humongous Income Tax Act has been in place since 1961 and the UPA government had proposed a Direct Tax Code to replace the Act.

However, since the government changed in 2014, the DTC could not be taken up.

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