Dear Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji
I found this tweet of yours on 31st July 2017 and just couldn’t resist retweeting it at once.
Being a regular follower of your work due to continuous updation across domains of Media and a Modi supporter for all the good economic and social decisions, I am not having even a slightest of doubt regarding your abilities to take India forward in all spheres of developmental indices.
You are worth all the praise because of your dedication, vision, ability to work non-stop without taking any break from the work since the moment you was sworn in as PM.
Even Many Ministers & their ministry officials are working hard and interacting and solving problems/ queries of general public via mediums such as Twitter. Railway Ministry and Ministry of External affairs is at the service of citizens of this country 24/7 X 365 days. Hundreds of rail travelers keeps posting their grievances to Railway ministries & they are being taken care of on twitter as well as on field promptly. Reaction of complainant on twitter after solution is the proof for same.
Tax Collections are at all-time high, there is consistent growth in many economic indicators which suggests that the various tax payers are ably contributing for nation building by discharging their duties of tax payments. Tax Professionals are also contributing by doing their work of bridging the gap between Tax payer and tax departments by discharging professional duties in the changed scenario of digitalization of almost every departments’ processes and also educating the taxpayers about frequent changes in taxation laws in this fast paced era of economic reforms.
India, Biggest Growing economy since last 3 years, flurry of dynamic tax and economic reforms are taking place. GST the biggest economic reform since Independence has also been gone live after tug of war of 2 decades between Indian Political Parties which is flaunted as Good & simple tax by you as well as many across country.
Digital India initiative, Ease of doing business has been given widest possible importance by you, Demonetisation the biggest Black money clean up drive has also been a factor to increase the Income tax assesse base.
All these initiatives are welcome and being appreciated and supported by all across domain including Common man, Industry, Businesses, Tax Professionals, CAs and all leading Professional Institutions of the country.
However the IT infrastructure of Ministry of Finance seems to be facing a major bottleneck and is continuously giving trouble. The Ministry Interfaces particularly Income Tax Return efiling , GST migration and registrations & MCA Website have also given trouble in past/ facing trouble currently however no final solution seems to be in sight as yet which is a need of the hour to ensure Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas.
Migration/Registration work of GST, its deadlines, non-clarity on many legal issues under GST, delay in notification of Product wise GST rates, requirement of getting GST number to continue running business, numerous technical glitches of GST website has hampered work of Tax Payers as well as Tax professionals. Mandatory linking of Aadhar & PAN was also announced in rules by CBDT on 28th June 2017 only. These two issues literally paralyzed the working of many.
This year Income Tax Returns were well notified in time in first week of April, E filing Utilities were also made available then (As was directed by High Courts against various writ petitions across India against CBDT in 2015 when it released ITR and Tax Audit Forms and Return Filing Utility after a black out of over 4 months after start of assessment year) . However since 22nd July 2017, the E filing website was crashing continuously, there was a blackout for hours. Major problem was faced since 28th July 2017. The Website even gone for maintenance frequently during this period many times.
I am attaching few screenshots of the complaints of since 22nd July 2017 via Tweets regarding non-working of Income Tax E filing Website to twitter handles of Income Tax India, Ministry of Finance, Revenue Secretary etc. which were many in numbers however none of them have responded to any of these tweets. This sent anxiety, nervousness & worry across country because due to a likely co-ordination problems within Finance Ministry, thousands of Tax Payers and Tax Professionals faced the unnecessary problem of wastage of time, energy and over and above it, fear of legal hassles under various sections of Income Tax Act if a return is not filed before the due date prescribed under section 139.
Following are Tweets from 31st July i.e. last day of E Filing.
At 3.12 PM on 31st July 2017, CBDT finally via a tweet communicated that the due date of filing Income Tax returns is extended to 5th August 2017.
However the language of Press Release by CBDT which followed thereafter can be termed as unfortunate and unwarranted in the way that it blamed all the problems faced by Taxpayers for over a Week on them. There is sharp difference of vision and perception between your tweet and following press release by Ministry of Finance which co-incidentally happened on same day.
I will summarize below how the claim of CBDT in above Press release is factually incorrect.
1) The Taxpayers are consistently filing the Returns, the statistics on Income Tax Efiling website shows that number of IT Returns YOY June end has seen a growth of 15.52% in 2017.
2) The Month on Month trend in Return filing was improved this year and seen a growth rather than any deficit over last year.
3) Over 49 % of taxpayers those who filed return this year used Return filing Utility provided by Income Tax Department as claimed by department itself.
The Utility of department is mostly used by the individual taxpayers who file their own IT Returns rather than any tax professional / practitioner as it requires to import master information from E filing website via xml file when a new file is created. It proves time consuming and hence those who have number of client to serve use a software for IT Return filing than utility of department. Thus around 49 % of those who file return will log in to the site only once and not keep himself logged in as claimed by CBDT.
4) Over 85 % taxpayers (89% in Peak month of July) file their ITRs in ITR 1 – SAHAJ (For Individuals having Income from Salaries, one house property, other sources (Interest etc.) and having total income upto Rs.50 lakh) , ITR 4 – (For Individuals/HUF having income from a proprietary business or profession) or ITR 4S – For presumptive income from Business & Profession which are applicable for small taxpayers, even the data content in those ITRs is not that much so as to cause any load on a website so as to crash it. Even though E filing statistics for the month of July 2017 is not yet available on website, the number will surely not double than that of last year 1.26 Crores Income Tax Returns during the month of July (peak time & due date) .
Last year site did not faced any issues but CBDT on its own because of bank strike on 29th & 31st July being Sunday extended the due date of filing Income Tax Return from 31st July 2016 to 5th August 2016 so that taxpayers can make the payment of self-assessment tax without inconvenience.
Thus looking at the high number of taxpayers who file returns for themselves mostly one or two in numbers using utility of department, 90% number of tax payer being small taxpayers not having any bulk data to transmit, Hence the second charge of CBDT against taxpayers that people those who have already logged in want to continue for the entire period for fear of losing it appears to be totally baseless looking at the above statistics.
5) Leading Business News Paper from the country The Economic Times reported as under in the evening of 30th July 2017 i.e. a day before due date.
Officials of CBDT gave interview to leading newspaper about smooth functioning of IT Efiling. But his claim that no major glitches were reported is questionable when thousands have tweeted difficulties to FinMin, ITD, many have e mailed so also lodged grievances on www.pgportal.gov.in. If views of CBDT were correct and there were no problems in the site whatsoever, what stopped them from either responding to queries of taxpayers or officially publishing steps to overcome the problems faced via a press release?
Nobody wants extension, but if smooth functioning of website is not possible from CBDT then how can they suppose the taxpayers and tax professional complaining about nonfunctioning of Income Tax Website to discharge their duties within the time frame?
6) There are various issues/ penal provisions under income tax if a Return is not filed within the due date, prominent being as below
a) No loss shall be allowed to be carried forward under the head Business or Profession or under the head Capital Gain unless the return is filed within the due date as mentioned in section 139(1).
b) Interest Under Section 234 A & B is payable for tax payable
c) Return cannot be revised for any mistake
d) The Finance Bill, 2017 proposes to levy fees of Rs.5,000 in case where return is furnished after the due date but on or before 31St December of the relevant assessment year and Rs.10,000, in other cases under section 234 F. However, it is also proposed to restrict the fees to Rs.1,000, where the total income does not exceed five lakh rupees.
So no one will ever want to face above consequences by not filing return in time and wait until last moment.
7) PEAK RATE OF RETURNS FILED PER DAY:
Until year 2014, CBDT used to print statistics about Peak rate of receipts of ITRs per minute/ hour/day which it discontinued thereafter. Following are the details of same
Thus we can see that IT Efiling website could sustain a load of 16.82 lakhs ITRs per day in 2014, this capacity surely might have increased because of continuous up gradation of technology. The CBDT official quoted in Economic Times that they have received over 2 Crores ITRs upto 30th July 2017. So we can sum up as below
(Note: Example only for the purpose of understanding arithmetic, actual uploads per day may differ)
The Avg per day ITRs filed in July 2017 turns out to be 5.23 lakhs well below load bearing capacity of 16.82 lakhs Peak ITRs per day hence allegations of CBDT regarding heavy load, panic and last minute rush does not hold good.
8) The Intentions of CBDT this year seemed to be more of meeting tax collection targets than ensuring smooth services to tax payers. Even they have not taken into consideration the horrific flood situation in many parts of country that took lives of over 400 Indians across states. Many representation were made by various organizations to extend the due date of filing return of income in view of total collapse of normal life in states of Guarat, Rajasthan, Assam, West Bengal etc. Hitherto CBDT used to suo moto extend the due date in case of natural or other calamities but this year they have not given any heed to the representations as well as on own to calamity of such an extent.
9) One of the main objectives of the computerization programme of IT Department as reflected in the judgment of Vaghjibhai Bishnoi v. Income Tax Officer and another reported in  36 taxmann.com 371 (Gujarat) is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the tax administration and to ensure better enforcement of tax laws by ushering tax payer friendly regime. If the very computerization has caused genuine hardship to one and all concerned, CBDT ought to have paid heed to the repeated requests of all concerned in exercise of its statutory powers.
It also quoted as below
“14….On the contrary, we are of the firm opinion that computerization in every Department is objected with a view to facilitate easy access to the assessee and make the system more viable and transparent. In the event of any shortcoming of software programme or any genuine mistake, the Department is expected to respond to such inadvertence spontaneously by rectifying the mistake and give corresponding relief to the assessee. Instead of that, even when it is being brought to the notice of the Department by the assessee, by a rectification application and subsequent communication, not only it has chosen not to rectify the mistake, but, the lack of inter departmental coordination has driven the assessee to this Court for getting his legitimate due. This attitude for sure does not find favour with the Court, as more responsive and litigant centric system is expected; particularly in the era of computerization. Taxpayer friendly regime is promised in this electronic age. For want of necessary coordination between the two departments, the assessee cannot be expected to be sent from pillar to the post.
15.1 Thus, computerization of the Income Tax Department when has undergone the exercise of a comprehensive business process re-engineering, it is expected that Departments wish to herald Tax payers friendly regime becomes the A paradigm shift is programmed as tax payers population has been growing exponentially, ushering all the imperative changes and modernization of administration.
15.2 If the Centralized Processing Center meant for return processing, accounts, refund, storage of data etc. adds to the difficulties of the Tax payers, due to lack of distribution of work between back office and front office, and that too, after having been pointed out the actual error, a serious re-look is expected.”
10) Even the Hon Supreme Court in Uco Bank, Calcutta Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax, West Bengal -1999 held that
the powers given to the Board are beneficial in nature to be exercised for proper administration of fiscal law so that undue hardship may not be caused to the taxpayers. The purpose is of just, proper and efficient management of the work of assessment and the public interest.
Sir, the above claims more or less repudiates the unfortunate wordings of CBDT press release issued on 31st July 2017 while extending the deadline of filing of Income Tax Returns.
The Purpose of this letter to you is not complaining regarding anyone. However taxpayer, tax professionals and tax practitioners wants ease and seamless functioning of the Infotech Infrastructure provided to them for discharging various obligations under the various taxation laws so as to fulfill the dream of .
I will summarize few of recommendations to overcome above drawbacks for maximum extent.
1) CBDT should start a dedicated Twitter Handle and a real time Grievance portal to respond to queries/issues of taxpayers/ tax professionals expeditiously just on the lines of Ministry of Railways.
2) As now deadlines are mostly to be followed either under Income Tax Act , GST or Companies Act which falls under a single minister only, it should be looked that deadlines under these acts should not overlap each other
3) The technological snags from the Website should be removed so that nobody faces any issue in future to ensure minimum government & maximum governance.
4) Various Departments require different versions of support software (e.g. Java) to be downloaded and installed which many times gives error of clashes amongst them, same may be streamlined and requirement of a single version across ministries may be thought off.
5) Major issue as of today is Linking of Aadhaar card with PAN , many are facing the issue of not able to link due to difference in name or date of birth and have to either submit application to CBDT or UIDAI to modify the detail to match the detail which is time consuming and should be removed. This needs simplification as aadhaar linking in case of net banking account does not give any errors. CBDT should ensure change in procedure as last date to link is 31st August 2017 and it is quoted by Revenue Secretary that PAN will be cancelled thereafter which will prove to be detrimental to the public interest as time taken by Aadhar information to get updated is 90 days as per its latest tweet. More co-ordination amongst different ministry officials is required to thrash out such pity and unwarranted issues.
I have written this letter directly to you and not to the ministry concerned as I know your team keep a close watch on each and every aspect reported to it and takes up the issue with concerned within a short span of time and takes it to conclusion. I will keep writing to you in future various aspects which will ensure giving thoughts for ease of doing business by simplifying the various aspects in taxation laws.
Assuring dedicated support in your motto #NATIONFIRST for making India a VishwaGuru and a small help to your dedicated effort of keeping pace with the speed at which India’s youth expects you to fulfil their dreams & aspirations.
CA Atul Modani
I have electronically sent the letter to PM on 4th August 2017 from website http://pgportal.gov.in/pmocitizen/Grievancepmo.aspx
Following is the confirmation of same.
I am sharing the copy of the letter in public domain for the benefit of all the stakeholders at large.
The Author is a practicing CA actively involved in writing articles and sharing taxation and legal updates across different modes of social media. He can be reached at https://atul.caclub.in