AHEAD of Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting with all Principal Chief Commissioners and Chief Commissioners of Income Tax on August 13 to launch a new tax programme, ‘Transparent Taxation — Honouring the Honest’.

The invitation for the launch of the new scheme was shared by P C Mody, Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), on Tuesday with senior tax officers, sources told The Indian Express.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to address the officers through a web telecast on August 13 at 11 am. A programme could be announced to the public on August 15, sources said.

Over the past 3-4 weeks, the Prime Minister’s Office is learnt to have held several meetings with senior tax officials on faceless assessment and scrutiny of income tax returns. “The address to income tax officers is likely to focus on faceless assessment and transparency boosting measures for the taxpayers with special focus on reducing hassles for individual taxpayers,” a senior income tax official said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on Friday said faceless assessment and charter of rights for taxpayers were being worked upon as part of an overall simplified tax regime.

Though an across-the-board rollout of faceless assessment is yet to come through, the tax department has disposed of about 14 per cent of the 58,000 cases selected in the first phase that was launched in October 2019. The Finance Ministry data released last week showed that scrutiny by the Income Tax department had reduced to 0.25 per cent of the total Income Tax Returns (ITRs) in assessment year 2018-19 after rising to 0.55 per cent in the assessment year 2017-18, the year of demonetisation.

An economic slowdown coupled with the Covid pandemic has hurt businesses, while individuals had to suffer salary cuts and job losses. This has squeezed regular tax collections, prompting the department to look at alternative ways of bolstering revenues.

For instance, the tax department is relying heavily on the new amnesty scheme Vivad se Vishwas announced by the Finance Minister earlier this year to partly make good the tax shortfall which is likely this financial year. It has targeted collections of Rs 2 lakh crore under the amnesty scheme.

The Vivad se Vishwas scheme aims to settle as many as 4,83,000 direct tax cases pending in various appellate forums i.e. Commissioner (Appeals), ITAT, High Court and Supreme Court.

The budgeted direct tax collection is of Rs 13.19 lakh crore for 2020-21. Of this, income tax collection target is pegged at Rs 6.38 lakh crore and corporate tax at Rs 6.81 lakh crore. In the first three months of this financial year, the income tax department has collected Rs 1.16 lakh crore from income tax and corporation tax, which is about 30 per cent less than the collections a year ago, according to data released by the Controller General of Accounts.

Source:- indianexpress