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Under fire for ‘tax terrorism’, Modi govt to clear all dues and refunds by year-end

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Move seen as a course correction after opposition slammed govt over frequent ‘tax raids’ on assesses in the name of black money.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government, which has drawn massive flak from the opposition and common citizens over alleged harassment and high-handed attitude of tax authorities, is desperately attempting a course correction with general elections inching closer.

Both the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) are now in a hurry to clear all dues and refunds, including the big-ticket ones, before the year-end, ThePrint has learnt.

“We have decided to clear all pending cases at the earliest..our departments are working overtime to ensure this happens,” a tax official told ThePrint.

Besides the opposition parties, former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had in February slammed the Modi government that demonetisation led to “tax terrorism”, and is causing more embarrassment for the party.

The Congress has been attacking the BJP-led NDA government over the frequent tax raids and harassment on assessees in the name of detection of black money.

AICC chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala earlier said that “tax terrorism and “raid raj” had become the order of the day.

Course correction?

Last month, the CBDT decided to hold a special “grievance redressal fortnight” to address taxpayers’ complaints related to disputes, rectification and adjustments made in tax demands. Until last year, anybody filing for a tax refund of over Rs 10 lakh had to go through stringent scrutiny.

A senior tax official said that pending cases are being disposed of and many even without adequate proper scrutiny. Sources said that the aggressive drive was due to stiff collection targets set out for taxmen.

Earlier, CBDT and CBIC said that the focus was on small and mid-size tax refunds.

CBDT in a recent official communication even said that the redressal of public grievance and taxpayer service is an area of “top priority” for the board and the government.

Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley and even interim FM Piyush Goyal have repeatedly said that the government’s aim is to create an environment of trust among honest tax payers.

Even the regional tax authorities issued a directive to employees asking them to display civil behaviour with assessees.

Earlier this month, Goyal had said for the first time in India, 99 per cent income tax refunds have been cleared in the April to June quarter.

The total income tax payers increased from 6.47 crore in 2014-15 to 8.27 crore in 2016-17.

Similarly, the number of registered tax payers under GST has gone up to over 1.12 crore from 64 lakh under the earlier tax regime.

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