THE UNION Finance Ministry and Infosys will meet on Tuesday in the wake of glitches and a slew of consumer complaints regarding the new tax portal executed by the Bengaluru-based software major and launched June 7. These range from basic login issues, including the inability to generate OTP for Aadhaar validation, password generation glitches, failure to link old data for past returns, and problems in filing returns.
Within 15 hours of its launch, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had tweeted: “The much awaited e-filing portal 2.0 was launched last night 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.” She directed Infosys to expeditiously “look into the matter”.
Since then, taxpayers have reported more issues, including the “forgot password” option not working, data for past filings not being visible, I-T returns not downloading in PDF format, problems in raising refund reissue requests, lack of captcha code for login, mismatch of PAN data, and companies less than 18-year-old shown as “minor” and not allowed to file returns. The Indian Express has learnt that some of these issues are now part of official representations to the Union Finance Ministry, which is likely to raise them in its meeting. Infosys was awarded the contract in 2019 to develop a new income tax filing system that would reduce processing time for returns from 63 days to one day, and expedite refunds.
Multiple sources told The Indian Express that the issues seem to have cropped up as adequate “live load testing” was not done before the portal’s launch — similar to the 2017 launch of the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), which was also executed by Infosys. Live load testing is a form of software testing that helps determine a system’s performance under real-life load conditions.
Indications are that the project underwent 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 actual users test to see if it is able to perform the tasks in real-world situations.
The Indian Express spoke to several Government officers who testified to issues with “load testing”. “The testing at full load is usually done through extrapolation. For instance, if 100 people are expected to login together, the infrastructure is prepared keeping a load 10x of it, that is, 1000. But the full real load may not have been tested. This was one of the issues at the time of the launch of the GSTN also till the entire infrastructure, including hardware, cloud storage, etc., was upgraded after testing for full real load rather than just through extrapolation,” another source said. A key factor that differentiates the tax portal from the GSTN portal is the load factor — around 1.8-1.9 crore taxpayers for GSTN (inclusive of 1.3 crore registered and the rest from the pre-GST regime) and over 8.5 crore for the income tax portal.
“All interface with the taxpayer is supposed to be through this portal. For instance, only if the portal is fully functional can a window be presented to the taxpayer for communication. Now, lots of penalty cases are getting time-barred by June 30 and tax officers are worried,” a source said.
In response to Sitharaman, Nilekani said Infosys would work on “resolving” the issues. “The new e-filing portal will ease the filing process and enhance 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,” he tweeted. The Indian Express sent a questionnaire to Infosys and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) seeking their response on the reasons behind the glitches — but received none.
On Saturday, Infosys chief operating officer Pravin Rao spoke on this issue at the company’s 40th Annual General Meeting, and said that the company is working to resolve the concerns in the new income-tax e-filing portal.
“Over the last week, several of the technology glitches, which impacted the performance and stability have been addressed and as a result we have observed lakhs of daily unique users in the portal. Close to 1 lakh income-tax returns have been filed so far,” he said, adding that as new functions have been introduced, concerns related to filing forms, e-proceedings, and instant e-PAN, among other areas, were observed.
“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 said.
It is learnt that Infosys had sought time for rollout of the project, with one of the concerns expressed being the lack of adequate troubleshooting support from the tax department. The view being held that the tax department did not have to meet a deadline like at the time of the GST rollout to launch the tech portal simultaneously with legislative changes.
The Cabinet approved expenditure sanction of Rs 4,241.97 crore for Integrated e-Filing & Centralized Processing Center (CPC) 2.0 Project of the Income Tax Department on January 16, 2019 from FY 2018-19 to FY 2026-27, which includes payout to Infosys. The letter of award of contract was issued to Infosys on January 23, 2019, to design, develop, implement, operate and maintain CPC.
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