The Government of India has been commended for the many new initiatives on the digital front that have been introduced that span different aspects of the economy. Digitization has taken the world by storm and India has also led the way in introducing new digital measures across the economy. This year’s budget was also a digital budget. The government has also put measures in place for all assessments up to the Income Tax Appeal Court (ITAT) to be faceless.
This is achieved with the aim of making compliance easier and reducing discretion. These measures are very modest and indeed sincere attempts to increase the overall efficiency of the operation and increase productivity. However, they bring their own challenges as digitization is a change that is likely to face the greatest opposition from an entire generation struggling to keep up with the ways of working in new areas of life.
In order to further advance the digitization step and to shorten the processing time of income tax returns, the income tax department launched a new e-filing portal on June 7th of this year. This initiative shows the government’s determination to embrace digitization and reap its long-term benefits, especially during the difficult times of the pandemic. It would be a surprise if such fast-paced measures did not face their own challenges and hurdles. The date 7. BEPS) Measures of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Coincidentally, the Union Minister for Law & Justice, Communication and Electronics & IT officially launched ITAT’s e-filing portal, ‘itat e-dwar’, a few days ago. Hopes were expressed that with the combination of the digital courtroom, virtual hearings and “mobile application” providing judicial information, paperless courts would soon become a reality in ITAT. Time will tell whether this is actually a fruitful reality.
Since the start on June 7th there have been numerous malfunctions / problems in the functionality of the new portal. The Ministry of Finance asked various stakeholders for suggestions on such mishaps / problems. According to sources, the ministry received more than 2000 issues and representation points from various stakeholders. To address these issues, a meeting between the Treasury Department, the seller and various stakeholders was held on June 22nd.
While the issues have already been brought to the discussion table, some imminent questions can only hint at the gravity of the situation and the actions that may now be needed to correct the situation. For example, access to their own account in the income tax portal was initially a challenge for many as a non-starter. In some cases, newly founded companies / firms etc. could not register for the first time on the portal.
This can affect the other commercial aspects that would depend on a unique identification number for tax purposes. In many cases, seniors who, based on their income information, can submit their income tax return significantly earlier, have also been denied permission to upload their income tax return on the portal. This can put a strain on the portal if all taxpayers flood the system to access to comply with regulations. Even the new utility, namely. The Json utility is not working properly, resulting in taxpayers being unable to file their income tax returns.
There are numerous of these problems big and small, each of which needs to be addressed in the most flawless and detailed way possible. The problems have been taken seriously and attempts are being made to resolve them with set schedules.
A press release was recently issued by the government stating that it has started to resolve the technical issues identified in the functioning of the portal and has increased the resources for executing the project on the hardware and application side, which have some issues occurred have already been recognized and rectified. In addition, it was also determined that certain issues related to electronic procedures, Form 15CA / 15CB, Tax Withholding Returns (TDS), Digital Signature Certificate (DSC), viewing past income tax returns, etc. are expected to be resolved soon.
Expect the finer nuances to be addressed and tested for some time before they are implemented to ensure a problem-free portal. It is to be expected that the above-mentioned bottlenecks will be resolved, some other major technical malfunctions may require more time and tests to determine the correctness of the applications and error-free operation.
Keep it up
For more than a year we have been experiencing a completely new way of life that one could never have imagined, especially the digital design not only in the area of tax law, but across all areas of life and borders. On the Indian demographic front, where we are still struggling to get out of the second wave, the question is whether the new income tax e-filing portal was really the need of the hour as the current system already included many changes in the last few years.
Without prejudice to the foregoing, ideally when introducing a new large scale system (such as the income tax portal) some inherent controls will need to be carried out to ensure it works properly. “Operational Effectiveness” is the stepping stone for any new system that can then be used to determine the success of the system. Because of this, an “exhaustive test” that provides accurate output is a protocol that must be followed before the system goes live. A test run would probably have had to be done to iron out the discrepancies before the portal could go live. A test run would already be ideal to test the effectiveness of the new portal.
Second, considering the new system would have teething troubles that any new system is likely to have, it might not be wrong for the government to run both the old and new systems in parallel to ensure compliance The rules are guaranteed not to be compromised and a smoother transition to advanced compliance systems is made possible.
Even if the new portal is operated at 100 percent efficiency, in retrospect the old portal should be in use for taxpayers for a few more months so that a gradual and seamless transition would achieve the government’s intended goals of facilitating compliance and restricting the scope for discretion .
(By Sanjiv K. Chaudhary, Chartered Accountant)
Disclaimer: These are the author’s personal views.
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