In a bid to expedite income-tax assessments and case proceedings that must wait for the client’s appearance before the agency, the government, 2020, initiated the Faceless Assessment Scheme. Under the new system, cases assigned to the I-T- Department would necessarily have to be from “outside the regional jurisdiction” of the state. This was done to free the assessment from political and magnate pressures and to distance the assessor and assessee. In short, it was done to make the assessee faceless and the law uniformly applicable to all.
Even better was the transitioning to IT. No need for huge files occupying chunks of space in musty government offices. Any information was ready at a click.
However, despite the streamlining of processes, officers in the I-T department in Gujarat are a disgruntled lot. Especially in prohibition zone Gujarat where liquor cases were never handled. Now, tidying over files from booze barons/ defaulters from as far as Punjab, Kerala and Rajasthan, is turning out to be a tiring time for officers not familiar with the slabs and nitty-gritties of such cases.
While dealing with “faceless files” is a challenge, the other hurdle remains a lacklustre technical infrastructure. “The officers, rules and laws are the same but the system’s execution has changed. First, no technical training was imparted on how to file such cases, how to document cases, and how to access the larger I-T domain for access to sensitive information. Secondly, especially in liquor cases, the officials here have no clue on how to go about the case structure. Liquor-related files account for roughly 2% of cases we deal with,” shared the insider, adding that a confused execution plan has led to a pile-on of assessments.
The officer, based out of I-T office, Ambavadi, elaborated: “There is a need for upskilling us and for handing out a manual of liquor-related income. Most cases of liquor business either deal with tax evasion or with lack of proper ITR filing. We simply do not know how to go about it.”
Two years since the Central government implemented the faceless assessment, yet it has not met with the desired effectiveness. “Far from it, officers are struggling with cases related to liquor and also funds relegated to charitable organizations, trusts. Senior officials take time to adapt to technological changes,” he lists the lapses.
At the Ambavadi and Vejalpur offices, five departments have been relegated for faceless assessments. Meanwhile, at the I-T department, direct tax collections for 2021-22, as on March 16, 2022, shows a net collection of Rs 13,63,038.3 crore compared to Rs. 9,18,430.5 crore over the previous corresponding fiscal. This is an increase of 48.41%.
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