IT dept officials will need to give out email id, phone numbers to prove authenticity: FinMin

NEW DELHI(PTI): In an attempt to bring authenticity to e-mail based communication to taxpayers, the Finance Ministry has asked Income Tax department officials to mandatorily mention their e-mail and official phone numbers in such letters and notices.

Arun Jaitley

An official order, accessed by PTI, in this regard was issued by the Ministry sometime back on the directions of Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia.

“Henceforth any notice, letter, communication issued by any officer under Department of Revenue, including CBDT, its directorates and field formations to the taxpayers, members of public should invariably contain mention of e-mail address and office phone numbers of the officers signing such communications, notice, letters for facilitating tax payers’ electronic interface with the department.All are requested to kindly ensure that the above directions are strictly followed,” the order said.

A senior official explained the step has been taken to lend the required “authenticity” to electronic communications, which at times are fraught with the danger of being fake or phishing attempt on the taxpayer.

“In case of doubt, the recipient or taxpayer could check the authenticity of the notice or letter sent by the Assessing Officer or the IT officer.The attempt is to make e-communication by IT department safe, secure and reliable,” the official said.

The department has recently launched a first-ever pilot project to begin an e-mail based scrutiny assessment of taxpayers in select cities.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the policy-making body of the IT department, had recently also notified use of e-mails as the new mode of communication between the taxman and taxpayers,as part of the government’s e-initiative to reduce human interface and complaints of harassment and corruption in conducting tax-related jobs.

Henceforth, the taxman can now send official communication to “e-mail address available in the income-tax return furnished by the addressee to which the communication relates or the e-mail address available in the last income tax return furnished by the addressee or in the case of addressee being a company, e-mail address of the company as available on the website of ministry of corporate affairs”.

The department, in order to reduce the taxpayers’ visit to the IT office, had launched the ‘pilot’ project and the first set of e-communications have been decided to be mailed to 100 chosen people each in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chennai regions.

The CBDT had recently asked the department to “initiate the concept of using e-mail for corresponding with taxpayers and sending through e-mails the questionnaire, notice, etc., at the time of scrutiny proceedings and getting responses from them.”

“This would eliminate the necessity of visiting the Income Tax offices by the taxpayers, particularly in smaller cases, involving limited issues and where taxpayer is able to provide details required by the Assessing Officer (AO) without necessitating his physical presence,” the order had said.