CBDT (The Central Board of Direct Taxes) has decided to extend the ITR Filing deadline and tax...
To enable the electronic conduct of income tax assessment proceedings, a faceless scheme of scrutiny was launched by CBDT. With the introduction of such a scheme, Assessing Officers of the Income Tax Department have no recourse left, but to rely on communications backed by electronic media, for examining all cases of scrutiny assessment.
In September 2019, the e-assessment scheme was propagated by the Finance Minister with a view to curb certain undesirable practices adopted by tax officials in discharging their functionalities, the risk of which was higher due to high level of personal interaction in the existing system of scrutiny assessment.
A new sub-section (3A) in Section 143 has been added by the Finance Act, 2018 to provide a scheme of e-assessment so as to impart greater efficiency and transparency in assessment proceedings of income tax cases. This scheme aims to remove the human interface between the Assessing Officer and the taxpayer during the course of proceedings.
According to CBDT instructions, all scrutiny assessments excluding the search related ones need to be executed through the e-proceeding facility available at e-filing portal of the department’s website (i.e., www.incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in). It should be noted that e-assessment scheme applies only to scrutiny cases under Section 143(3) and not to other kinds of assessment like income escaping assessment or best judgment assessment.
The CBDT had issued the instructions and notice formats for conducting scrutiny assessments electronically. With such faceless assessment, an unprecedented attempt is made to almost nullify the degree of person-to-person interaction so that assessment proceedings can be resorted to a fair, speedy and paperless conduct.
To ameliorate the current assessment system, a centralized organization named ‘National E-assessment Centre (NEC)’ is set up at Delhi to act as the nodal agency to facilitate e-assessment proceedings. The CBDT further sets up different Regional E-assessment Centres (RECs), each with a controlling region headed by a Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax. Under every REC, the following four units are empanelled:
The following procedure shall be adopted by the NEC:
It has been clearly provided that all sorts of communications among different units of REC, or with the assessee for finalizing an assessment, shall be routed only through the NEC. In other words, to ensure stringent transparency, the NEC shall act as the mediator, both within the internal units of REC and also for communicating with the taxpayer on behalf of REC. Moreover, the exchange of documents/notices/orders between NEC and the taxpayer takes place only through electronic mode.
The notices and orders are delivered to the taxpayers by electronic means, i.e., either through uploads on the assessee’s e-filing account or notifications on his registered e-mail. Thus, it can be clearly judged that this scheme shall not apply to cases where the taxpayer does not hold a PAN, or files his return manually, or does not have an e-filing account with the department.
Under this scheme of faceless assessment, the assessees are debarred from appearing personally or through their authorized representatives before any tax authority, NEC, REC or units set up under them. If any oral submission is required though, it can be streamlined only through video conferencing or trusted telecommunication software.
The e-assessment scheme is aimed at minimizing hassles for the assessees and eliminating the scope for malpractices on the part of the income tax department. The scheme runs on the patterns of dynamic jurisdiction wherein assessment cases of one region of the country can be handled by any part of the country. Moreover, the assessee shall not be aware of the Assessing Officer who conducts his assessment since he may be from any region of the country.
The government has selected around 58,322 cases for faceless assessment in the first phase of the scheme. For this purpose, e-notices have been sent to the concerned assessees before September 30, 2019, for the cases related to income tax returns filed for the AY 2018-19. Thus, the new scheme of e-assessment brought in by CBDT is likely to bring a paradigm shift in the assessment proceedings of the income tax department.