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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Faceless assessment: Video interaction option in specific cases, SOP to come out soon

Last week, the government had launched faceless assessment scheme for all assessments except central charges and international tax cases.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | August 22, 2020 1:28:06 am
Officials said the properties were bought through shell companies between 2003 and 2005. (File)

The Income Tax Department will provide an option of interaction between taxpayers and tax officials through videoconferencing in some specific cases of tax assessments under the faceless assessment scheme, senior tax officials said Friday. The Department will prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for such an option, but it would be exercised cautiously so as not to jeopardise the faceless nature of the scheme, Rajesh Kumar Bhoot, Joint Secretary, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a webinar.

“If at all there are some misunderstandings, then there is no closure of the door as there is a provision of video conferencing also … Earlier, the scheme was very open type. Anybody could ask for video conferencing but there was a genuine concern that this would be used to jeopardise the faceless nature of the scheme. So we thought we would come with the SOP as to in which cases VCs would be allowed which would be approved by the board,” he said, while addressing a webinar organised by Dhruva Advisors and FICCI on faceless assessment.

Last week, the government had launched faceless assessment scheme for all assessments except central charges and international tax cases.

The system of faceless appeals will come into effect from September 25. There were concerns raised whether the absence of oral or physical hearing would end scope for ‘fair exchange of information’ as only written submission would be allowed.

“Can the taxpayer be assured that their written points would be understood by the tax officer and taken into consideration, and therefore can the taxpayer be assured of justice in the current scheme,” S Nageswari, tax head, Tata Group asked tax officials at the webinar.

Bhoot assured that written submission made by taxpayers would be taken into account in assessment and any misunderstanding could be sorted out via video conferencing, citing that the officials were already using email and VC facilities during the pandemic.

A new set of SOPs for faceless assessment regime would be approved by the CBDT, outlining the criteria under which a request for a videoconference could be approved. “It would actually be spelling out the parameter or circumstance or the kind of cases that would warrant a personal hearing. It would be a guidance to the chief commissioners and National e-Assessment Centre (NeAC) while evaluating request for a personal hearing, but it would do well for the assessee to know if his request for personal hearing matches the criteria laid out for the same,” Smita Jhingran, Chief Commissioner, Regional e-assessment centre in Delhi said.

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