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In Sushma’s footsteps, Nirmala Sitharaman gets tax dept to handle social media grievances

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has stepped in and told the tax departments to actively respond to all problems aired on social media platforms.

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New Delhi: The direct and indirect tax departments under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have become more proactive in dealing with taxpayer grievances aired on social media as they look to revamp the ‘tax-terrorism’ image.

Sitharaman, following the footsteps of former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, has stepped in and directed the tax departments to actively respond to all grievances aired to her and the departments on social media platforms.

Swaraj carved a niche for herself as the saviour of Indians stuck in difficult situations in overseas countries who tweeted to her with their problems. She personally helped Indians stranded in strife-torn countries or those having visa or medical issues, becoming one of the most popular ministers of the Modi government for her assistance.

Although Sitharaman has not been personally responding to the grievances like Swaraj used to, she refers all concerns and queries addressed to her to the tax department in line with the government’s efforts to become more taxpayer-friendly.

Also read: I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime, Swaraj said on Article 370 in her last tweet

Active on social media

The income tax department began personally responding in the middle of July after Sitharaman’s prodding and beginning August, the Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs has also started addressing taxpayer grievances, said a tax department official who did not wish to be identified.

Sitharaman holds a daily morning meeting with all the five secretaries in the ministry of finance. All complaints addressed to the minister on social media websites, including Twitter, are handed over to the revenue secretary.

The responses vary but are mostly preceded by “We are here to help you” or “We have noted your concern” and follow to ask the taxpayer to fill an online form to address taxpayers grievance.

To be sure, this may only be a first step in removing the tag of ‘tax terrorism’ that often gets associated with the tax department. More recently, many corporates including, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Industries, and Mohandas Pai, chairman, Aarin Capital, had spoken up against tax terrorism and pointed out that the government has been unable to prevent it.

Among other individual taxpayers, the tax department responded to Pai, who had openly accused successive governments for tax terrorism after the alleged suicide of Cafe Coffee Day founder V.G. Sidhartha.

Also read: A fighter with a stern smile, Sushma Swaraj could easily have been the Indira Gandhi of BJP


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