Tech-driven, transparent tax governance great help for businesses in Covid-19 period: ASSOCHAM

New Delhi: In the run-up to the launch of the full-fledged ‘Transparent Taxation’ platform by Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi today, the faceless e-Assessment scheme by the Income Tax Department came in as a handy and effective tool for both the taxpayers and the tax authorities, as businesses look for technology-driven and transparent governance while battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the ASSOCHAM has said.

While the Prime Minister has launched a game-changing enlarged and wider version of the ‘Transparent Taxation’ platform, encompassing faceless assessment and appeal, the existing e-assessment scheme has already brought in several positive features, helping the taxpayers, according to stakeholders’ feedback by the chamber.

Under the faceless e-Assessment scheme, taxpayers receive notices on their registered emails as well as on registered accounts on a web-portal of the Income Tax Department, specially created for the purpose. They are also informed electronically about the issues for which the taxpayers have been selected for scrutiny. Without any need to establish any personal contact with any IT official, the taxpayer can send replies by email to the National e-Assessment Centre. The entire process of scrutiny and assessment is faceless and system-driven.

“Our initial feedback from the stakeholders shows that the e-Assessment system has been received well by the taxpayers. Traditionally, there is this anxiety about assessment which is now being managed through smart governance. If a return goes for assessment and certain queries are raised by the assessing officer, the same can be answered online. At times, a particular expenditure or source of income may be sought to be adjusted or enquired about; the same can be answered,” ASSOCHAM secretary general, Mr Deepak Sood said. Saving of compliance cost and time would be the key differentiators.

Mr Sood said, both individual taxpayers, businesses and the tax authorities should treat the faceless e-Assessment scheme as a major reform in e-governance. “Our stakes are quite high to make it a big success; after all, this is the only way forward. Such initiatives are even more important when we are following rigorous social distancing and avoiding physical contacts. Also, it would go a long way in rooting out any mal-practices which result from individual discretions; it is all a system-driven scheme.”

The scheme can be a catalyst in Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s Digital India vision. Its success would also make a huge difference to India notching up several points on the global Ease of Doing Business metric.

The ASSOCHAM Secretary General, however, said “As we go along, we are bound to have different experiences and issues, requiring refinement of the scheme. That would depend a lot on the alertness and knowledge base of the taxpayer as well. Our chamber would provide a common platform to the taxpayers and the authorities to work for mutual good.”

For instance, he said, one of the suggestions received by ASSOCHAM from its members was to make the online communication between the taxpayer and authorities much more interactive.

The overall feeling among the taxpayers is that such schemes can go a long way in bringing reforms in direct taxation. “The relationship between the taxpayer and the government should be seamless, fearless and the one that cements mutual confidence. The e-Assessment is a step in that direction.”

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