CBDT claims RTI replies on ‘write-off’ of IT arrears ‘erroneously sent’
In an apparent volte-face, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has now said that figures of ‘write-offs’ of Income Tax arrears furnished under the RTI Act were sent out in error
In an apparent volte-face, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has said that figures of 'write-offs' of Income Tax arrears furnished under the Right to Information Act were sent out in error.
Responding to an IANS report "Income Tax Department writes off huge arrears, show RTI replies" on May 28, 2018, the CBDT's official spokesperson said that the the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Pr-CCIT) Hyderabad had provided erroneous figures of 'write-offs' under an RTI application filed by Chandra Shekhar Gaur, a Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh) activist.
According to the RTI replies, the Pr-CCIT, Hyderabad had stated that it had written off a total of ₹3,002.20 crores in two financial years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
The CBDT spokesperson, Surabhi Ahluwalia, Commissioner of Income Tax (Media & Technical Policy) now says that the information provided was "due to an inadvertent error made by the CPIO who reported the figures of 'Cash Collection' or recoveries made from arrears in these years as the figures of arrears written off."
The correct amount of arrears written off in those two years for the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana by the Pr-CCIT Hyderabad, was actually zero (Nil), as no write-off orders were passed in these (two) years, he said, adding that the RTI applicant Gaur has been informed of the mistake.
Interestingly, this correspondent had sent an email to the CBDT on May 16, with specific queries on the figures and the authorisation levels for the 'write-offs', which was ignored for nearly 13 days. After the article on the write-offs was published on May 28, the CBDT swung into action with a reply.
All proposals of ‘write-off’ of arrears above ₹5,000 are examined by a committee at Zonal, Regional and Local levels, while any proposals for ‘write-off’ above ₹25 lakh must “be approved by CBDT” and any such amount above ₹50 lakh need approval “by the Finance Minister,” said the CBDT
On the figures of tax arrears, totalling to over ₹50,000 crore, including over ₹33,157.97 crore from Pune alone, provided under RTI by various IT offices across India, the CBDT spokesperson said it had already collected ₹44,633 crore during 2017-2018, which was 14.6% higher than ₹38,944 crore collected in the previous fiscal.
Besides, the CBDT said of the current demands, ₹52,537 crore, was recovered by the ITD in 2017-2018.
The CBDT reiterated that 'write-off' of arrears was a detailed and long-drawn process and only initiated for arrears which become irrecoverable "after all avenues for recovery are exhausted."
Besides, all proposals of 'write-off' of arrears above ₹5,000 are examined by a committee at Zonal, Regional and Local levels, while any proposals for 'write-off' above ₹25 lakh must "be approved by CBDT" and any such amount above ₹50 lakh need approval "by the Finance Minister."
For small value arrears upto ₹10,000, there are relaxations in guidelines under a fast-track process, but the rigorous process remains in place and during 2017-2018 (upto December 31, 2017), a meagre amount "of ₹5.6 crore was written off in the entire country, the spokesperson said.