If there is one area in the income-tax administration which has remained perennially incurable, it is the Refunds, we shows you an easy way to solve the problem. In a Press Release dated April 19, 2007, the Central Board of Direct Taxes stated: “It has been reported in some sections of the media that a large number of taxpayers are awaiting refunds from the income-tax department for up to three years. These reports are factually incorrect and based on incomplete appraisal of facts”. As per the statement made by Minister of State for Finance, there have been instructions to issue refunds within four months from the date of receipt of return and dispatched within 30 days from the date of signing the refund order. I am sure most readers would doubt the correctness of the above Press Release and Statement. You may not have received refunds for one or more earlier years despite many reminders, personal visits, and grievance-cell applications. It is a helpless and hopeless situation.
YOU HAVE THE POWER
The Right to Information (RTI) Act came into effect from October 12, 2005. The Act helps many citizens to obtain information, which earlier was a not available, from various Govt Departments and other organisation like PSUs, Indian Railways, Reserve Bank of India and so on. Information can be accessed by making an application under the RTI Act. It is very simple, least time-consuming, and most inexpensive. A few organisations (22 in all) like CBI, RAW are basically exempted. Further, certain information are exempted for all organizations covered under the RTI Act referred to as “Public Authority”. Such exempt items include information on commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders, personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual etc.
RTI TO THE RESCUE
Suppose, you have not received IT refunds for A.Y. 2002-03 of Rs 1,057 and for A.Y. 2004-05 of Rs 7,230 in spite of many reminders. You make the application in Annexure A (see specimen form below), and take it to one of the designated post offices, handling RTI applications. There are 88 designated post offices in Mumbai region alone (list available on www.bcasonline.org ). For other cities, visit www.indiapost.gov.in to get details of designated post offices. The fee for an RTI application to a Central Govt authority is Rs 10, which can be paid in the form of a Postal Order. To make the system operate easier, the Prime Minister of India decided that the Department of Posts should provide its services to all the Central Govt Departments as a collection point for information under the RTI Act, by designating its Central Assistant Public Information Officers (CAPIOs) as PIOs for the entire Central Govt. The postal department now not only receives the fee on behalf of all Central Govt Departments and issues postalorder for it, but also takes the responsibility of delivering the RTI application free of charge to the concerned CPIO anywhere in India, on the same day. Acommendable service indeed! The use of this service for delivery is at the option of the applicant. If you desire to deliver application to the concerned department personally or through registered post A.D., you may do so. An RTI application should be addressed to the Public Information Officer (PIO). Eachestablishment (i.e. Public Authority) covered under the RTI Act has to appoint one or more PIOs, in fact one for each of the department’s different offices. Until August 9, 2007, all Commissioners of Income-tax were PIOs. The Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, and Directorate of Income-tax vide communication dated 09.08.2007have modified RTI mechanism inrespect of PIOs / Appellate Authorities and other related RTI issues. Now your assessing officers the PIO for you.
SIMPLE, YET EFFECTIVE
So far, the success of RTI applications in the IT department is unbelievably 100%. In every case, the RTI application gets attended to immediately and you get pending refunds within 30 days(in some cases it takes more time to get refunds due to non-availability of your return; you are then requested to furnish duplicate copies with Indemnity on stamp paper). It is a remarkable and most effective tool to get your income-tax refunds if they have been due since long. However, you have to be careful in framing the questions you askfor seeking information. Please note that you are seeking information and not the opinion of the Public Information Officer(PIO) of the authority. You cannot ask “why”; e.g., “why have you not issued my tax-refunds thoughoverdue?” But, you can ask: “please inform when my overdue refunds will be issued.” Believe me, on asking such a question, you will receive all the refunds due, but were not issued within 30 days. The RTI Act is so powerful that the results in most of the cases are amazingly remarkable. The Act provides for a time-bound and defined process for citizens to access information. Severe penal provisions exist in the Act. Normally all laws provide penalty for the citizens for non-action or wrong action. Here is an Act which penalises bureaucrats for the same – Rs 250 a day for any default, maximum Rs 25,000.
WHERE CAN WE LOOK FOR HELP
If you need any assistance, you may visit the RTI clinic run by BCAS Foundation (division of Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society) at its office at Marine Lines on 2nd, 3rd and 4thSaturdays between 11.00 am to13.00 pm every month. You need to fix an appointment on phone: 022-66595601. Outstation readers may write giving details and papers connected with refunds due and assistance/ guidance will be provided by post. I end by stating: RTI is the most powerful Act, the like of which India has never witnessed before. It has heralded participative democracy by recognising citizens’ rights. If well implemented and well-used, a real swaraj will dawn for India. Please use the tool of RTI for your benefit, the benefit of others andthe benefit of the nation.
(see rule 3)
Format of application for obtaining information under the
Right to Information Act, 2005
The Public Information Officer :
(Name of the Office with Address)
|(1)||Full name of the applicant:|
|(3)||Particulars of the information required|
|(i)||Subject matter of Information:|
|(ii)||The period to which the information relates:|
|(iii)||Description of the information required:|
|(iv)||Whether the information is required by post or in person: |
(the actual postal charges shall be included in additional fees)
|(v)||In case by post: |
(Ordinary, Registered or Speed )
|(4)||Whether the applicant is below poverty line: |
(if yes, attach the photocopy of the proof thereof.)
Note: Pay Rs. 10 by cash or by pay order. For Maharashtra Government bodies you can also affix a 10 rupee Court Fee stamp on the application as application fee.