With the Union Finance Ministry working on measures to make the Faceless Assessment Scheme (FAS) of direct taxes more effective, Finance Secretary Ajay B Pandey stated that no protocols are being ignored and personal hearing through video-conferencing are not being denied.
Pandey mentioned that the Central government is ready with the blueprint and the design of the scheme, while added manpower motivation and data consistency of information of SFTs (Statement of Financial Transactions) are issues which need to be addressed.
"In FAS, out of the 58,320 cases assigned in September 2019, till now, 22,606 have been finalised. As regards the 80,166 cases assigned to the scheme in November 2020, as yet, 634 cases have been finalised. In the Faceless Appeal Scheme, the system is in place and cases have been allotted," BusinessLine quoted Finance Secretary as saying.
He added FAS' functionalities in the faceless assessment were developed in the work-flow system ITBA (Income Tax Business Application), Insight and in the e-filing project. Also, FAS -- which began in 2019 by the Income Tax Department -- is being used for scrutiny assessment.
On the issue of making FAS more effective, the Finance Secretary noted that ReAC-AOs (Regional e-Assessment Centre - Assessing Officer) are being sensitised to restrict the enquiries within the mandate of the scheme. Apart from this, to monitor the quality of the processes and outputs, a Quality Control Cell is being developed.
"The grievance redressal mechanism has been strengthened and a dedicated toll-free helpline number (1800-11-1961) has been started for addressing the taxpayers’ queries with respect to FAS. It is manned on all working days from 10 am to 5 pm by officers/officials of the department," the business daily quoted Pandey as saying.
The senior official said the ministry has set up two sets of dedicated email to receive taxpayers’ grievances, which are examined by senior officers of the NeAC (National e-Assessment Centre). Also, to facilitate taxpayer response, a mobile app is being developed.
Pandey quashed the allegations of junior officer issuing instructions to a senior officer under a faceless scheme. He said that all actions taken by the Assessing Officers in various units are approved by their respective unit heads under FAS.He even added that until now no personal hearing has been denied through video conference (VC). Under FAS, personal hearing through VC is given in only those cases where a Draft Assessment Order that is prejudicial to the taxpayer is communicated to the taxpayer and the later request for a personal hearing after disputing the facts underlying the proposed modification. The CCIT ReAC further allows the hearing then, he added.