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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Explained: Glitches in income tax portal, and what is being done

Since its June 7 launch, revamped portal developed by Infosys has faced issues in generating passwords, linking data for past returns, and filing of returns.

Written by Aanchal Magazine , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 27, 2021 2:25:31 pm
Infosys, Income TaxThe Centre summoned Infosys MD & CEO Salil Parekh on Monday to explain to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman the reasons for the continuous glitches on the IT portal. (File Photo)

After over two-and-a-half months of continuing glitches in the revamped e-filing portal of the Income Tax Department, and its unavailability over the last two days, Finance Ministry officials held two meetings with Infosys MD & CEO Salil Parekh on Monday. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman summoned Parekh — the second meeting in two months — to explain the reasons for the continuing glitches, and has now given Infosys a deadline of September 15 to resolve these.

What is the new income tax portal?

The Income Tax Department in May announced the launch of its new e-filing portal http://www.incometax.gov.in on June 7. It said the “new taxpayer-friendly portal” would be integrated with immediate processing of Income Tax Returns to issue quick refunds to taxpayers, with all interactions and uploads or pending actions to be displayed on a single dashboard. The portal was to also have free ITR preparation software available with interactive questions to help taxpayers for some categories, along with a new call centre for prompt response to queries.

Infosys was in 2019 awarded the contract to develop the new system to reduce processing time for returns from 63 days to one day and expedite refunds.

What are the issues?

Within hours of its June 7 launch, the portal started to face issues such as inability to generate an OTP for Aadhaar validation, password generation glitches, failure to link old data for past returns, and problems in filing returns. The problems have now expanded to include errors in interest calculation, incorrect capturing of details from Form 16, and inability to add details for tax exemption for trusts. Individual taxpayers also complained about their ITR-1 not being accepted even days after submission, inability to e-verify the ITR after filing, Form 26AS details not getting automatically populated, and the portal not having a secure connection and taking time to load properly.

The persisting issues have led to calls by chartered accountants and taxpayers for further extension of filing deadlines. The due date for filing ITR by taxpayers not covered under audit was earlier extended to September 30 from July 31, for tax audit cases to November 30, and for transfer pricing cases to December 31. August 15 was the deadline for issuing quarterly TDS certificates for tax deducted for payments (other than salary such as interest income) for the quarter ended June. The last date of making payment under Vivad Se Vishwas (without additional charges) is August 31.

How has the government intervened?

In June, the morning after the launch, Sitharaman tweeted: “The much-awaited e-filing portal 2.0 was launched last night at 20:45hrs. I see in my TL grievances and glitches. Hope @Infosys & @NandanNilekani will not let down our taxpayers in the quality of service being provided. Ease in compliance for the taxpayer should be our priority.”

Nilekani, the Infosys head, tweeted back: “The new e-filing portal will ease the filing process and enhance the end-user experience. @nsitharaman ji, we have observed some technical issues on day one, and are working to resolve them. @Infosys regrets these initial glitches and expects the system to stabilise during the week.”

Consequently, the I-T Department had to allow manual filing of remittance forms and extend due dates for electronic filing of forms related to intimation by pension funds and sovereign wealth funds.

On Sunday, as complaints continued, the I-T Department tweeted: “Ministry of Finance has summoned Sh Salil Parekh,MD&CEO @Infosys on 23/08/2021 to explain to hon’ble FM as to why even after 2.5 months since launch of new e-filing portal, glitches in the portal have not been resolved. In fact,since 21/08/2021 the portal itself is not available.”

Infosys then tweeted the portal was “live”. Infosys India Business, the Twitter handle of Infosys India Business unit, said on Sunday: “The emergency maintenance of the @IncomeTaxIndia portal has concluded and the portal is live. We regret any inconvenience caused to taxpayers.” Earlier that day, it had tweeted: “The @IncomeTaxIndia portal continues to be under emergency maintenance. We will post an update once the portal is available again for taxpayers. We regret the inconvenience”. On Saturday it had tweeted that the portal is “currently inaccessible due to planned maintenance”.

On June 19, at the 40th annual general meeting of Infosys, COO Pravin Rao had said, “We are deeply concerned with the initial inconvenience that the new e-filing portal has caused the users and are committed to resolving all the issues at the earliest,” he had said.

On June 22, Sitharaman called a meeting with key officials of Infosys, including Parekh and Pravin Rao, and asked them to address all issues without further loss of time, improve their services, and redress grievances on priority. During the meeting, Infosys said it has been working to fix the technical issues. At least five issues — e-proceedings, Form 15CA/15CB, TDS statements, DSC, viewing of past ITRs — were expected to be resolved in about a week, an official statement had said.

Last week, Sitharaman said the glitches would be largely fixed in the next few days. “I have been reminding Infosys constantly, and Nandan Nilekani has been messaging me with assurances that in the next couple of days they will sort out the majority of problems.”

Have other government portals faced similar issues?

Infosys had earlier been appointed by the government and its agencies for a number of IT projects — including the $50 million contract to implement the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ MCA21 v2 portal, and a Rs 1,380 crore contract to develop the IT backbone for the GST Network. In all three projects, Infosys’ products saw performance issues.

The GSTN project faced glitches with laws and procedures being changed frequently after the rollout. Some of the problems were ironed out after tax officials were appointed to explain the frequent changes to the project vendor. Such projects including the I-T portal are learnt to have undergone a “user acceptance test”, which is understood to have been cleared by the IT Department, prior to being given a go-ahead for a full-fledged launch. Such testing takes place at the final stage of software development when users test if it is able to perform the tasks in real-world situations.

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