Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the Income Tax department has taken various initiatives in the past 2-3 years in order to bring about efficiency, transparency and fairness in tax administration.
Addressing the second meeting of the consultative committee attached to the Ministry of Finance on the subject of ‘Initiatives of I-T Department’ in New Delhi on Friday, the Finance Minister said a single page ITR-1 (SAHAJ) form was introduced for taxpayers having income up to Rs. 50 lakhs. The rate of tax for individuals having income between Rs. 2.5 lakhs and Rs. 5 lakhs was reduced from 10% to 5%, which is among the lowest in the world, the Finance Minister added.
He said the concept of ‘no scrutiny’ was introduced for first time non-business tax payers having income up to Rs. 5 lakhs, so that more and more people are encouraged to join the tax net and file their I-T returns and pay the due amount of taxes.
He said corporate tax was reduced to 25% for companies with turnover up to Rs. 50 crores, thereby covering almost 96% of the companies. The new manufacturing companies incorporated on or after March 1, 2016, were given an option to be taxed at 25% without any deduction. The MAT credit was allowed to be carry forward up to 15 years, instead of 10 years as part of procedural reforms, the Finance Minister added.
Highlighting the initiatives of the department in the field of e-governance, the minister said 97% of the income tax returns were filed electronically this year, out of which 92% returns were processed within 60 days, and 90% refunds were also issued within 60 days.
The Finance Minister further said the department also introduced grievance redressal system named e-Nivaran, which integrated all the online and paper grievances and tracks them till their resolution. Every grievance is acknowledged and resolution is intimated through email and SMS. The Finance Minister said 84% of 4.65 lakh e-Nivaran grievances have been resolved so far.
Jaitley further said through e-Sahyog, all cases of information mismatch are handled in non-intrusive manner to avoid full investigation. He added that about 1.9 crore salaried tax payers are being informed every quarter by the department of the amount of TDS deposited by their employers. He said all of these e-governance initiatives of the department have helped in having minimum direct interface between the tax-assessing authorities and the assesses, which, in turn, help in minimising harassment, curbing the menace of corruption and time-saving, among others.
He also highlighted the initiatives of the department as far as ease of doing business and promoting financial markets are concerned. In this regard, he specifically mentioned about the introduction of Presumptive Taxation Scheme for Professionals having income up to Rs. 50 lakhs. Similarly, the threshold for Presumptive Taxation Scheme for business income has been raised from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 2 crores and companies located in International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) have been exempted from dividend distribution tax and to pay MAT @ 9% only.
The minister said India has entered into foreign collaboration with 148 countries as far as exchange of information for tax matters is concerned and with 39 countries for criminal matters. He said changes in the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with Mauritius and Singapore were incorporated to allow for source-based taxation of capital gains on shares and interest income of banks.
As far as the drive against black money is concerned, the I-T department has taken various initiatives since the present government came to power. In this regard, the Finance Minister mentioned about the enactment of the Black Money Act, 2015; Comprehensive Amendments to the Benami Act, 1988; and Operation Clean Money among others. The Finance Minister said after the intense follow-up of demonetisation data from November 9, 2016, to January 10, 2017, about 1,100 searches were made resulting into seizure of Rs. 610 crore, including cash of Rs. 513 crores. He said undisclosed income of Rs. 5,400 crores was detected and about 400 cases were referred to the ED and CBI for an appropriate action.
In order to promote less cash economy and digital transactions, the minister said the department took various initiatives, including penalty for cash receipt of Rs. 2 lakhs or more, limit of cash donation to charitable trusts reduced from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 2,000 and no cash donations of Rs. 2,000 or more to political parties.
Highlighting the impact of demonetization, the Finance Minister said the revenue collections in case of direct taxes rose to Rs. 8,49, 818 crores during the financial year 2016-17 at a growth rate of 14.5 per cent. He said net collections up to September 18, 2017, in the current financial year 2017-18 rose to Rs. 3.7 lakh crores with a growth of 15.7%. He said the number of tax payers increased significantly from Rs. 4.72 crores in the financial year 2012-13 to Rs. 6.26 crores during the financial year 2016-17.