Following is the text of the Valedictory address of Shri S.S. Palanimanickam, Minister of State for Finance delivered at the 26th Annual Conference of Chief Commissioners and Directors General of Income Tax, here today:

“It is my pleasure to give the valedictory address before this distinguished gathering of the senior officers of the Income Tax department. I entered this office as Minister of State of Finance- Revenue, in 2004 and since then, there has been an exponential growth in its revenues – from Rs.1.05 lakh crore in March 2004 to Rs. 3.78 lakh crore in March, 2010. This is a result not only of economic buoyancy, but also a stellar example of the positive effect of tax payer friendly initiatives undertaken by CBDT. The Hon’ble Finance Minister has already congratulated the excellent performance of the department and its officers, but I too have to laud the efforts of the officers and employees of this department for its outstanding achievement.

At the outset, I would like to thank the Hon’ble Finance Minister for his active participation in various initiatives of the department. He inaugurated the Advance Training Complex at NADT, Nagpur on 8th May, 2010 to augment training and international programmes. He also launched the e-tutorial on TDS prepared by the IRS probationers. He chaired the second meeting of the Central Direct Tax Advisory Committee (CDTAC) on 18th May, 2010. The Hon’ble Finance Minister dedicated to the Nation the Centralized Processing Centre set up in Bengaluru on 29th May 2010. In his key note address yesterday, the Finance Minister emphasized the need to tone up the tax administration by adopting IT initiatives and improving professional competence and responsiveness of the officers. He also suggested accepting the PPP mode to improve the services delivery standards. I am hopeful that these suggestions have been given due consideration by this august group, and comprehensive proposals will be submitted in due course to take these suggestions to the next higher level. It is our good fortune to have such a senior and experienced Minister to guide us in our task of building an efficient tax administration.

The Annual Conference of Chief Commissioners and Directors General provide an opportunity to the officers to take stock of Department’s achievements and review the work in progress. I would like to commend the Department on some of its achievements in the last year. The innovative project of the Income Tax Department Integrated Taxpayer Data Management System (ITDMS) was awarded PM’s Award of Excellence for the year 2008-09. This is a comprehensive tool to develop focused intelligence and detect tax evasion in a non-intrusive manner. To this end, it is laudable that the Income Tax Service Centre has obtained IS 15700:2005 certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards. I am glad that the Department has not only brought out a compilation of Best Practices and Orders in the form of a book titled “Let Us Share”, but have kept it updated by bringing out its 3rd Volume. The drafting of the new Direct Taxes Code is a major policy initiative of the department, which will go a long way in ushering in a more transparent and simplified direct tax administration, and would be in tune with the new demands and challenges that the growing forces of globalization throw up.

While I am happy at the progress made by CBDT in the various fronts, more needs to be done. There is a need to attain higher levels of professionalism and motivation amongst the officers of CBDT and to improve service delivery standards to the tax payers. In my valedictory address in the last year’s conference, I had flagged certain important issues. I am glad that certain clauses of transfer policy which were perceived to be causing hardship to the officers have been amended. However, I feel that this is only the beginning of the process. More issues need to be addressed to improve the morale and the satisfaction level of the officers and staff. It is important to satisfy the professional aspirations of officers in a timely manner through efficient cadre management, cadre planning, and imparting the right skills. In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the Hon’ble FM’s keynote address yesterday wherein he had laid emphasis on taking up cadre restructuring proposal which has been delayed. I hope this is taken up in right earnestness by the Board.

As the Department’s contribution to the Central exchequer grows, its manpower, resources and infrastructure also have to grow in tandem. The Department has to create quality infrastructure for its officers and staff as well as for the use of assessees. It is not always efficient and timely to control this process centrally. The field formations need to be given greater financial powers and autonomy in order to impart greater momentum to the process of infrastructure building. I urge the department to actively work on a proposal to enhance delegation of financial powers to its field formations. To ensure better coordination of expenditure on human and material resources, the department should consider setting up a dedicated Directorate of Finance. There is an urgent need to tone up the Vigilance Machinery of the department. It is imperative that the department fixes a time frame to decide vigilance related cases. Such a time frame should be practical taking into consideration the various nuances of the case. The corrupt should be punished, but the department’s reaction should be prompt. You have to realize that keeping officers in the Agreed list also deprives the department of officers to man sensitive charges. It is therefore in the interest of the department and the officers that vigilance matters are resolved within a fixed time frame.

I would also like to bring to your attention the delay in compiling the monthly revenue figures within the first week of the following month. I would like to be apprised of the bottlenecks, if any in timely collection of the revenue collection figures. I am positive that problems, if any, can be sorted out in this regard.

While tax collection is the core responsibility of the Department, it is important to remember that there is more to modern tax administration than mere revenue collection. The administration needs to be transparent, simple, and efficient. The officers and staff need to go beyond their traditional role of tax collector, and should acquire a more holistic approach where efficiency of services to tax payers, transparency and fair play are given their due importance. At the same time, they also need to focus on devising tools to prevent tax evasion, rather than to unearth evasion that has already taken place. All this requires a focused approach to qualitative improvement of the human resources through regular training and interaction with the senior officers. In this regard, I am happy to note that zonal/regional level conferences have been started, as a precursor to such an annual conference. This will certainly aid in identifying issues which are peculiar, sensitive and relevant for that region and which can be tackled more effectively by such interaction. A connected issue that the department needs to dwell upon is how to improve and update the knowledge base of its most important stakeholders i.e. Auditors, Chartered Accountants etc. An approach of partnership in this area can pay rich dividends.

The Board is very fortunate to be led at this time by a Finance Minister who is willing to give utmost freedom to the Department in augmenting its resources and improving its infrastructure. This is the right time to capitalize on this opportunity because the pressures of revenue collection, meeting the revenue target and budget preparations start building up only from December onwards. Therefore, the Board should use this lean period to work on proposals for creation of infrastructure, cadre restructuring, capacity building etc.

The Department’s efficiency has to be bench marked by the satisfaction level of the users. A major source of dissatisfaction of income tax assesses is with respect to refund of taxes. The time taken to grant refunds is very high when compared to international standards. The department should set up a task force to revamp the system of tax refunds so as to progressively reduce the time taken for refunds from the present period of more than four months, to a maximum of sixty days. Similarly, I have received feedback that the taxpayers are facing difficulties in getting credit of the TDS paid by them. There is a need to review and revamp the existing TDS administration in order to iron out these irritants. It is important that taxpayers receive uniform treatment of their cases in any part of the country. In order to ensure uniformity of approach and transparency in its functioning, the department should put in place a mechanism to disseminate information on all such important orders, judgments to all field formations.

I note that several of these issues have been deliberated during the Conference and I hope that concrete suggestions and action plans have been drawn up for follow-up action.

In the year ahead, we have a tough task before us. We have to achieve a budget collection target of Rs.4.30 lakh crore. The FM in his speech yesterday had implied and hoped that the direct tax collection will exceed its Budget Estimates. However, I shall be direct and urge all of you to take all necessary steps for not only realizing, but exceeding the B.E. Exceeding our collection targets will be a form of thanksgiving to the FM for the benevolence and encouragement shown towards this Department. “

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