If you thought getting income tax details of a third person would be an easy task following the recent order of Central Information Commission (CIC), then you are mistaken. In a case filed by Delhi-based chartered accountant R.K. Gupta, the CIC had on December 14 ordered the Income Tax (I-T) Department (Delhi) to allow him inspection of records and give information regarding tax details of Escorts Limited and Dr Naresh Trehan. The commission had asked the I-T department to give these details to Gupta before January 15.

However, neither the department has shared the information with Gupta, nor the government has given any written instruction to I-T offices across the country regarding the commission’s order.

Meanwhile, the two parties (Escorts and Dr Trehan) have approached the Delhi High Court against the CIC order.

“I haven’t got any information from the I-T,” confirmed Gupta. He also does not hope to get any information. Citing reason for this he said, “In a similar order which was more than 6 months back, the I-T department has not yet given me information that I sought.”

The department still follows its old practice of seeking clearance from the concerned third person before sharing information on his tax details with others. “As the department seeks clearance from the concerned third person whose answer is always a no, we could not share the information,” a senior I-T official said.

Officials added that the section 138 (1)(b) of the Income Tax Act has provisions of sharing information relating to any assessee with others provided the information sought is in public interest.

The section has been successfully used by various investigating agencies such as the police, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Enforcement Directorate who have obtained tax information of accused persons.

“Because the information is used for investigation purposes, we share the same with other agencies without seeking permission of the concerned assessee,” the official said.

He added that since the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which governs the I-T department all over the country, has not issued any instruction to follow the CIC order, the authorities would not give information under Right to Information Act without the consent of the third person concerned.

When asked, Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai, RK Singh confirmed that no instruction has come from the government on the CIC order. When asked about sharing information about a third person, he said, “We don’t give information about third person to anyone without his clearance.”

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September 2021