Last few weeks of September are like last overs of a 20-20 match -
tension, exhilaration and victory. Many Chartered Accountants had serious
issues with the tax filing utilities. It seems that the “empty screen” virus
which attacked GSTN made its appearance on the “incometaxindiaefiling” portal
also. If not the departments, the portals are certainly in touch with each
Throughout the month I received reminder messages to file my tax returns
on or before 30th September 2018 or face penalty of Rs. 5000. Yet,
when I signed into the portal to upload, like thousands of others - the site
went blank – into an empty screen - perhaps representing the empty words of the
From a high level, the Social Contract between the State and
Taxpaying Citizens is breaking down. One-word summary of its cause: Disregard.
Like many professionals, I wonder:
a.Has the Finance Ministry set
a new record of poor taxpayer services?
b.Have they breached their
obligation to make adequate arrangements to enable taxpayers to
discharge their obligations with ease1 ?
c.What is the accountability
of Netacracy and Babucracy when compliance enabling mechanism does not
d.Does tinkering Forms and
Utility (at random frequencies) corroborate the mission of the Department 2?
e.What should be the consequences
of not adhering to the stated Mission and Vision3 of Income Tax
I don’t know which emoji will come to your mind after reading Citizen’s
Charter, but many seem to have lost
1 Income Tax Department Mission, Point No 2: To
Make Compliance Easy
Tax Department Mission, Point No 3: To be accountable and transparent
3Income Tax Department Mission, Point No 4: To
deliver Quality Services
Design of Forms & Duplication: Income tax forms are a testimony to
design malfunction – in functionality and aesthetics, dated content, obsession
for excessive information, random placement of clauses, tinkering, focus on the
trivial and low sense of proportion.
Case in point: ITR to Form 29B to Form 3CD. Asking 8-10 registration
numbers in Form 3CD in Digital India – can I not put it in the master? MAT Form
29B asks for business code, which is already in ITR? Reproduction of details
from financials – when they could be attached or uploaded or picked up from MCA
(and let me tell you that when I incorporated a company in September I got
sales calls from five bankers before receiving certificate of incorporation –
how did they get that information?)? Asking for bifurcation of GST registered
and GST unregistered dealers – have GST returns stopped? 50 plus clauses/sub
clauses in a Tax Audit Report? … The only reason could be that someone didn’t
hear about ease of doing business!
In addition, multiple government agencies ask for same data for their
consumption although they are paid by the same taxpayers to talk to each other
and work in tandem. Can PF Department website not throw up a certificate to the
tax office about timely filings? What we need is – ONE NATION ONE REPORTING.
The State needs to get its act together and consolidate what it wants from
taxpayers and offer a single window to file everything! Instead of obfuscating,
blokes in North Block need to dumb down and utterly simplify everything.
1.Not seeing the nation as
‘largely tax non-compliant society4’ (effectively calling us tax
evaders) and treat them as partners in nation building!
Minister Arun Jaitley in his Union Budget Speech, February 2017 - The same
minister who made political party funding opaque.
2.Not inflicting the taxpayers
with quagmire5of compliances
and providing seamless ease of compliance (and this is not as easy as
3.A Ban on flip-flop law
tweaking and emphasis on discipline and care for taxpayers – it better be
4.Ending multiplicity and
duplication of filings and have departments talk to each other! Taxpayers are
not government servants, it’s the other way round!
5.Justifying purpose, need and
quantum of reporting and why it cannot be served from fetching data from places
where it is already available! This means government has to be smarter and work
6.Not punishing people who
comply and support compliance with outright coercive and thankless
‘provisions’? Slash and burn large parts of the Act, that will be a good
7.Inserting a new chapter in
every tax law on “Rights of Taxpayers”, “Government Obligation to Tax Payer
Services” and “Penalties for not serving the tax payers”.
8.Including the ‘public
servants’ under Consumer Protection Act or similar and report performance of
circles / wards on a quarterly basis – like we pay advance taxes - show us that
advance taxes are working to serve the
Most taxpayers risk a lot and some everything, to earn their livelihood
from which taxes are paid. Taxes should be like fees paid – governments owe one
to the people who do pay taxes. The Finance Ministry should be glad that people
are not studying the CAG Reports on the performance of the government/s’ in
spending their hard-earned taxes. Rather than using smoke and mirrors,
it is time to look in the mirror Mr Minister!