Income Tax Dept ‘writes off’ huge corporate tax arrears, say RTI replies

Honest small tax-payers and salaried with TDS continue to pay their taxes,even as the Income Tax Department starts writing off thousands of crores of corporate tax arrears, according to RTI replies

Photo by Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images
Photo by Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images

Quaid Najmi/IANS

The Income Tax Department has now started "writing off" thousands of crores of tax arrears by corporate defaulters after apparently failing to recover massive tax dues from them, according to RTI replies.

This, despite the fact that the ITD is sitting on a pile of ₹50,000 crore of tax arrears all over India, according to available figures, with the highest—₹33,157.97 crore—due in Pune, Maharashtra, alone.

The revelation has come from several replies given by Income Tax offices under various principal chief commissionerates of Income Tax (PR-CCIT) to RTI activist Chandra Shekhar Gaur, based in Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh. At least two PR-CCITs—Hyderabad and Pune—having huge tax arrears, have admitted to 'write-offs' of unpaid taxes, Gaur told IANS.

Experts say that PR-CCIT Hyderabad replies indicate it is barely making efforts to recover its massive dues/arrears and has apparently written off the entire amount to be recovered from the tax-payers in the past two years alone. "These figures are a matter of concern. The IT department has notched up over ₹50,000 crore as arrears but failed to recover most of it. Pune and Hyderabad IT have even gone ahead to 'write off' an amount of ₹3012.13 crore between them," an expert pointed out.

He said like the current trend among banks towards loan defaulters, even the ITD seems to be in a "forgiving mood" for defaulters who don't cough out taxes, while the honest small tax-payers and the service classes with tax deduction at source (TDS) continue to pay up without fail, or face the music.

Mumbai-based tax-consultant and chartered accountant Puneet Gupta said that arrears may be written off when the assessee is untraceable or bankrupt, but there is no procedure under the IT Act to "write off" arrears.

"Under the General Financial Rules, 1963, powers to sanction write-off of the revenue have been delegated by the centre to the IT authorities based on the amount (of write-off) and seniority of the officer," Gupta told IANS.

When contacted, a top official of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), New Delhi, admitted that there were certain provisions by which tax dues may be written off in certain cases. "However, the tax-payers' liability does not get extinguished even if it is written off for the time being. When we learn that the party's financial situation has changed, we immediately initiate recovery proceedings as per law," the CBDT official, who requested anonymity, told IANS. The official said the procedure (to write-off) was very long-winded, time-consuming and goes through various levels, depending on the amount and required clearances from different authorities.

Experts describe direct taxes as the veritable "bread-butter of the economy". Last year (2017-2018), the total collection stood at around ₹10 lakh crore.

Meanwhile, an email with specific queries on the issue and reminders to CBDT on May 16 by IANS remains unanswered.

Arrears in various Income Tax Officers according to RTI replies

Pune, Maharashtra Deputy Commissioner of IT (Hq-Admin) and the Central PIO, Harshit Bari said that the PR-CCIT here had notched up ₹33,157.97 crore as arrears pertaining to Direct Taxes. Against this, it had also written off a wee amount of ₹12.57 lakh, but the period for the waiver or the names of the beneficiaries are not specified.

Hyderabad Income Tax Officer (Hq-Tech) and the Central PIO, K Srinivas Rao has replied that the PR-CCIT (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Hyderabad) had piled up consolidated arrears of ₹1644.78 crore as of 2017-2018, which it had "completely written off". Additionally, it had written off an amount of ₹1,357.42 crore for the previous fiscal 2016-2017—thus, totaling to ₹3,002.20 crore for only two years.

Chandigarh Jt CIT (OSD) has admitted arrears of ₹70.93 crore and Ward 4(2) shows recoverables of ₹10.31 crore. But a single Ward No. 3(4) of ITO, Amritsar has notched up ₹2,369.81 crore as arrears.

Ludhiana, Punjab DCIT Circle-7 has unrecovered arrears of ₹69.57 crore, while ITO Ward 2(1) shows dues of ₹5.60 crore.

Bathinda, Punjab DCIT Circle (2) has dues of ₹58.34 crore.

Rajasthan PR-CCIT has piled up ₹6,419.57 crore. Additionally, it said it had to recover penalties of ₹1,202 crore and interest of ₹1,618 crore.

Tamil Nadu & Puducherry PR-CCIT has arrears of ₹3,553.09 crores due from defaulters. It has also gone a step further to provide a published list of 24 top defaulters from that region.

Chhattisgarh DCIT (Central-1) has arrears of ₹133.81 crore while the ACIT (Central-2) has an unrecovered pile of ₹3,298 crore.

Gandhidham, Gujarat ITO Ward-1 has dues of ₹261.23 crore and ITO Ward 1(3)(2) has ₹17.19 crore dues. ACIT has ₹217.90 crore due from defaulters.

Surat, Gujarat Addl CIT Range 2(1) has dues of ₹140.56 crore.

Valsad, Gujarat Ward 3 has ₹7.13 crore as recoverables.

Mumbai, Mahrashtra ITO 20(3)(2) at Parel has revealed a small figure of ₹1.01 crore and ITO 20(3)(5) ₹1.03 crore as recoverable. DCIT Central Circle 2(2) has admitted to ₹716.62 crore arrears while ITO Ward 11(3)(3) has ₹12.40 crore dues.

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh ITO 5(2) has arrears of ₹20.50 crore.

Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh IT0 Ward 2(3) has dues of ₹14.62 crore.

Inputs by NH Web Desk.

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