Electronic assessment, also known as e-assessment, online assessment, computer assisted/mediated assessment and computer-based assessment, is the use of information technology in various forms of assessment. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, also announced of such scheme in his budget speech on February 1, 2018; which would almost eliminate person-to-person contact in the Tax Department for greater transparency in assessment procedures. In a departure from the old procedures, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has stipulated that the e-assessment of a taxpayer will now be handled by two officers, instead of the current system involving a single assessing officer. This scheme is going to be out shortly.
Deputation of two officials for one assessment case will aid in increased level of monitoring. It is expected that this scheme will be launched in all cities where the department has an officer of the rank of principal commissioner. Further expansion in future to other cities is also in line. In the pilot project launched in 2016, 60,000 limited scrutiny cases and a few full scrutiny cases have been successfully conducted. The new regime of e-communication is expected to be voluntary and taxpayers can opt whether to conduct their dealings over e-system or through the existing procedure of manual submission of documents at the tax office. Taxpayers need to register themselves on the official IT web portal post which a confirmation through a text message as well as an e-mail will be made. This functionality to conduct the e-proceedings would be available for all types of notices, questionnaires and letters issued under various sections of the I-T Act, as CBDT has earlier said.
As per recent Instruction issued by CBDT (Instruction No. 01/2018), procedural aspects of the new scheme of e-assessment have been elucidated. A summarised explanation is as follows:
1. To facilitate conduct of assessment proceedings electronically a revised format of notice(s) under section 143(2) of the Act has been prescribed. It provides that assessment proceedings in cases selected for scrutiny would be conducted electronically through the `E-Proceeding’ facility in the assessee’s account made in E-filing website of Income-tax Department.
2. According to the procedure outlined in the revised 143(2) notice(s) for conducting assessment proceedings electronically, assessments except for search related assessments, proceedings of which are pending in scrutiny cases shall be conducted only via E-Proceeding functionality in E-filing Website. However, if the concerned assessee objects to conduct of assessment proceedings electronically through the ‘E-Proceeding’ facility then for the time-being, such procedures may be kept on hold.
3. Also, considering certain stations that have limited bandwidth capacity, it has been decided that till 31.03.2018, such stations may undertake and complete only ten percent scrutiny cases (i.e those which are getting barred by limitation on 31.12.2018) having the potential to effect recovery during the current year itself. The list of such stations shall be specified accordingly. At these stations, till 31.03.2018, the assessment proceedings in cases to be completed as per Central Action Plan target, can be conducted manually if e-assessment is not possible.
4. Some pertinent aspects while conducting assessment proceedings through ‘E-Proceeding’ are as under:
5. Assessment proceedings under ‘E-Proceeding’ facility may take place manually in situation(s) as mentioned below:
6. For cases assessed under E-Proceeding, the case records and note sheet of proceedings shall now be maintained electronically.
Note: Section 2 (23C) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 as from 01.06.2016, provides that “hearing” includes communication of data and documents through electronic mode.
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