Getting across to the income tax (I-T) department when you need to address a complaint or process your refund is often tiresome and long-drawn. However, the department is trying to change this system and quicken the response time to your refund and other grievances by issuing a unique acknowledgement number.
The IT department has assured that it will resolve complaints with the help of this number in a time span of two months.
This is a welcome step. But most experts feel the I-T department is building high hopes, which have less chances of being executed efficiently. Gautam Nayak, partner at Contractor, Nayak & Kishnadwala, reckons the major hurdle in the new initiative going through is the lack of a proper monitoring system by the department.
Taxpayers have been facing a host of grievances related to arrears and there are not many people to resolve the issue. Says an IT expert: “Sometime back, the I-T department uploaded incorrect arrears on its website. Cleaning that mess was a challenge. An I-T commissioner, we spoke to, said the department does not have enough people to clean the uploaded list. How come you had people to upload the list then?”
Experts agree first there is a need for a proper monitoring system for the new one to succeed. The monitoring system should look into not just the number of complaints filed but also into how many are resolved or not.
Another issue that needs attention is the big tax collection that increases the number of refunds. It also increases the amount of processing time for refunds. Recently, the Mumbai circle refunded Rs 10,000-12,000 crore (Rs 100-120 billion) collected by just one public sector bank. “Tax collection targets lead to I-T officers promptly recovering taxes but not refunding the excess taxes collected,” says Nayak.
This is where the new unique number is supposed to step in, but it might not address taxpayers’ problems. Vaibhav Sankla, director at H&R Block, a tax consultancy firm, believes spreading awareness about a new unique number system will be challenging. “The department first needs to tell all its employees about the new system, which is not always done. In bigger cities, it happens to an extent but in smaller towns, the employees aren’t in the know,” he says. Besides, taxpayers also have to be made aware.
The department also says an application for rectification can be filed by ordinary post. But experts feel this might not be helpful unless the department decides to post the acknowledgement number by post.
Experts feel the new system is unlikely to help lessen the time taken in getting tax refunds or in seeking any kind of clarifications. The time taken with the new number system could be as tedious and time-consuming as the present.
Hence, they advise taking the traditional route to filing for refunds or rectification applications. For now, use the existing grievance redressal system. Nodal officers under each commissioner are authorised to deal with your grievances in case you want to approach for a clarification or refund. The route might take a bit longer, but that still seems the better way to address your tax queries, for now.