October 2018

One Nation One Reporting

Raman Jokhakar
Editor


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 other!

 

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 government.

 

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 work?

 

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 Department?

I don’t know which emoji will come to your mind after reading Citizen’s Charter, but many seem to have lost
the script. 

 

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1   Income Tax Department Mission, Point No 2: To Make Compliance Easy

2  Income Tax Department Mission, Point No 3: To be accountable and transparent

3   Income 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.

 

How about:

1.    Not seeing the nation as ‘largely tax non-compliant society4’ (effectively calling us tax evaders) and treat them as partners in nation building!

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4  Finance 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 quagmire5  of compliances and providing seamless ease of compliance (and this is not as easy as sloganeering)!

 

3.    A Ban on flip-flop law tweaking and emphasis on discipline and care for taxpayers – it better be demonstrable!

 

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 harder.

 

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 act. 

 

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
tax payer!

 

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!

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5  The word refers to a swamp, marsh, quicksand, complex, hazardous, muddled, mixed up …


Raman Jokhakar

Editor



 

 

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