The finance ministry on Tuesday defended the guidelines issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to field officers working from home, after tax officer and staff associations described the directives laid out therein as tactics to pressurise assessees to cough up dues.
The Income-Tax department had asked field formations to contact taxpayers over phone or email to follow up on pending collections.
Finance ministry sources said describing the directives as coercive tactics “is nothing but just an imagination.”
“The directives of CBDT are given to the officers to be and to act as facilitators to taxpayers and to help them arrange their I-T related solutions through phone calls and/or other online methods. However, some quarters have mistakenly portrayed the directives of the CBDT as if directing its field officers to use coercion for collection of taxes in this time of adversity,” one of the sources said.
The sources clarified that during the ongoing nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all I-T officers including field officers, staff have been given guidelines to work from home by CBDT and are advised to make daily reports to their senior officers.
It is well understood that these directives on work from home can’t be interpreted as insensitive as it is duty and obligation of every government servant to serve the taxpayers and the citizens of the country in this trying time even if they are keeping ourselves confined to their the sources said.
They added that at a time when the government is genuinely working to ease the taxpayers’ woes by offering relief on compliance and regulatory measures, these directives of CBDT must be seen in the same spirit.
Traditionally, last quarter of the financial year sees major collections by way of tax
payments towards advance tax. The direction to field officers to contact taxpayers is
in the context of facilitating the taxpayers, who wish to make tax payments before March 31, sources said.
Pursuant to this direction, large number of taxpayers has been benefited from the telephonic facilitation and guidance provided by the officers of the department. This is duly reflected in the daily tax collections as well, it said.
The sources said that the expenditure budget functions by involving various Drawingand Disbursing Officers (DDOs) whose services have been declared as essential by the government. Stress has been laid on timely payment of salary to regular employees and wages to contractual staff.
The DDOs in all the central government offices have been working with skeletal staff to make sure that all the government servants and contractual staff get their salaries on due date. The CBDT, being the overall supervisory authority for the Income Tax department, is monitoring this aspect of work by way of daily reports to ensure that the salaries and wages are paid in time, sources said.