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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Probe against 3 I-T officers for report ‘contrary to policies’

Among other measures, the report had advocated a hike in income tax rate to 40 per cent for those earning over Rs 1 crore a year for a limited period of time, levy of a 4 per cent COVID-19 cess on taxable income over of wealth tax for individuals with net wealth of Rs 5 crore and more.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: April 28, 2020 11:15:03 am
India coronavirus Force report, FORCE report IRS officer, Income tax officer covid-19 report, Coronavirus india news, covid-19 news The three senior I-T officers have been divested of their current responsibilities. (Express photo)

Terming a report titled FORCE (Fiscal Options & Response to COVID-19 Epidemic) prepared by 50 young IRS officers as a position “contrary to current policies of government”, the Centre on Monday initiated a formal inquiry against three senior Income Tax officers.

Among other measures, the report had advocated a hike in income tax rate to 40 per cent for those earning over Rs 1 crore a year for a limited period of time, levy of a 4 per cent COVID-19 cess on taxable income over of wealth tax for individuals with net wealth of Rs 5 crore and more.

Officials in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) officials said the Board issued chargesheets to the three officers under Rule 14 of Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, 1965 for violation of conduct rules. The three senior I-T officers have been divested of their current responsibilities. No action was, however, taken against the young officers who had written the report, they said.

The three officers against whom action has been initiated, with the approval of the President of India, are: Prashant Bhushan (1988 batch), General Secretary of IRS Association, Sanjay Bahadur (1989 batch), Principal Director (Investigation), North East Region and Prakash Dubey (2001 batch), Director, DoPT and Joint Secretary, IRS Association.

The statement of articles of charges framed against these officers said the officers had “without any authority guided preparation of document titled FORCE in which a position contrary to current policies of government on various matters related to income tax, like tax slabs, incidence of tax, administration and collection of tax has been taken.”

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“This document, having been unauthorisedly released in the public domain, has created confusion and uncertainty with respect to the policy of government with respect to income tax which can have an adverse impact on economy, especially during this time when country is battling a pandemic and the government is keen to ensure a stable tax regime,” it said.

It further said that unauthorised preparation and release of such a document for wide dissemination also “amounts to criticism of government policies” by senior tax officers thereby “causing avoidable embarrassment to the government”.

It said the officers have violated Rule 9 of service rules by writing unsolicited report and getting it published in the print and electronic media.

“These senior officers, despite having more than 30 years of service, failed to exercise due care and went on to misguide the 50 young officers. Government would have definitely given due consideration to suggestions made by the young officers. However, in this case, instead of sending the report to the government through the official channel, these senior officers of rank of Principal Commissioner misguided them and went public with the report which created panic and tax policy uncertainty in the already stressed economic conditions in the country,” a CBDT official said.

Rule 9 of Central Civil Services Rules provides that no government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously, or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance make any statement of fact or opinion which had the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central government or state government.

In a statement earlier in the day, CBDT said it had never asked the IRS Association to prepare such a report and that “necessary inquiry” would be conducted.

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