Under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Government of India, the Income Tax Department of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has initiated one of the major e-Governance initiatives of India. Under this initiative, the entire department along with the gamut of services that it offers has been automated through a system of web-based, single-window, 24X7 service delivery model.
In order to achieve an all-round e-Governance capability, the department has taken up a three-pronged approach to develop its electronic infrastructure. This involves three major components:
(1) e-Delivery of Tax Payer Services
(2) Augmentation of Departmental Computer Infrastructure
(3) Setting up of Tax Information Network (TIN)
Since inception of online services through the department’s official portal (www.incometaxindia.gov.in) there has been an overwhelming response with nearly 5 lakh visitors visiting the portal each day.
Each component of IT infrastructure of the Department of Income Tax deals with a specific set of services under them. In turn, all these components and their constituent services are integrated with each other for achieving complete automation.
(1) e-Delivery of Taxpayer Services:
In case of ‘e-delivery of tax payer services’, 8 distinct services have been identified. A schematic illustration of such service modules has been shown as under:
• Dissemination of Tax Related Information: The official portal of the Income Tax Department acts as a single-point source of all tax related information for citizens. A wide range of information covering Tax Laws, Acts, Rules, Regulations, Tax filing procedures, Notifications, Circulars, House property and Capital gains taxes, Tax deduction and rebates, Depreciation rates, TDS rates, Forms, Due dates, Tax Commissioner jurisdiction, International Taxation, as also customised and personalised taxpayer specific announcements and e-mail alert facilities are provided on-line for registered users. In addition, taxpayers can avail the facility of using web-based Tax calculator and free-downloadable Return Preparation software – Sampark 2005 and e-filing software – Suvidha from the Department’s portal.
• Dissemination of Taxpayer Specific Information: Taxpayers can avail limited access to view personalized tax-related information on the Internet. Currently, taxpayers can get on-line information relating to their PAN, track status of their PAN application (using application acknowledgement number), download Challan forms for tax payment with pre-printed PAN and check transaction status of tax payments made through banks.
• PAN & TAN Related Services: A major portion of PAN and TAN related services have been made on-line and simplified by outsourcing certain services to external agencies like UTITSL (UTI Technology Services Limited) and NSDL (National Securities Depository Limited). PAN application centres have been set up in over 500 cities for facilitating operations on a national scale.
Application for PAN and TAN can be filed online, along with facilities of tracking application status, availing fee-based ‘Tatkal’ (Immediate) services for PAN/TAN allotment and requisition for correction in PAN/TAN. According to the latest figure as on June 27, 2005, around 3.91 crore of PAN cards have been issued and the average waiting time for applicants is below 10 days. Moreover, all PAN/TAN related information and services could be availed through a call centre ‘Aaykar Sampark Kendra’ (ASK), at the number 0124 – 24380000.
• Preparation of Returns of Income: Non-business taxpayers can make use of the free Return Preparation software called ‘Sampark’ to prepare their return online or download the program to do it offline. This software is updated every year to include the relevant changes in Tax laws and make return filing easier.
• e-filing of Returns of Income: Starting from July 2005, taxpayers assessed at any one of the 60 stations on the Tax Information Network can avail the facility of e-filing their returns either through approved e-Return Intermediaries or directly (subject to fulfilling eligibility criteria for individual taxpayers) under ‘digital signatures’. In order to encourage on-line filing of Returns the Department has adopted a policy of processing e-filing on a priority basis.
• e-Payment of Taxes: Payment of taxes have been simplified by introducing e-payment mode through Online Tax Accounting System (OLTAS). Under this system taxpayers can pay taxes electronically using net-banking facility of authorized banks like – IDBI, SBI, Central Bank of India and Bank of Maharashtra. To facilitate this process, new and simplified Challan forms (ITNS 280, 281 and 282) have been introduced having fewer columns and single copy sufficiency, as against four copies needed earlier. Details of this process is available at the TIN website (www.tin-nsdl.com).
• Computerised Processing of Returns/Refunds: All Returns are being processed on computers to reduce the time taken for sending taxpayer’s returns or refunds. Currently, Returns are being processed in less than 4 months time from the time of filing. Over 2 crore returns were processed during F.Y. 2004-05, resulting in issue of more than 39 lakh refund cheques. Faster processing of returns has also improved time-efficiency of taxpayer service and lower interest outgo on refund for the Department. This has also facilitated in creating a database system called ‘Computer Assisted Selection of Cases for Scrutiny’ (CASS) needed for identifying cases for scrutiny, identification of stop filers and supporting data for decision making on tax policy issues. In addition, electronic credit of refunds to taxpayer’s bank account has been introduced in 12 cities across the country.
• e-filing of TDS and TCS returns: TDS and TCS return mechanisms has been automated and e-filing has been made mandatory for Corporate and Government deductors, using legal provisions. Free return preparation software for TDS and TCS returns have been provided on the website of TIN. 760 Facilitation Centres have been set up by TIN in 265 cities for receiving applications for allotment of TAN and e-TDS/TCS returns. Till June 27, 2005 a total of 13, 96, 150 TANs have been allotted while 1,11,357 e-TDS return particulars have been received. (2) Augmentation of Departmental Computer Infrastructure:
The second component of process automation initiative of the Department of Income Tax involves setting up of ¾
(i) a National Data Centre (NDC)
(ii) an All India Virtual Private Network (VPN)
The National Data Centre will act as a central information warehouse for all Income Tax offices across the country. It is supposed to house data servers dedicated for Income Tax Department and accessible for registered and authenticated users. In order to supplement the National Data Centre and provide its connectivity to multi-location Income Tax offices, a nation-wide Virtual Private Network is under development for interlinking all Income Tax offices of the country.
(3) Setting up of Tax Information Network
The Tax Information Network (TIN, www.tin-nsdl.com), which forms the backbone of e-Governance initiative of the Department of Income Tax has been set up and hosted by NSDL. TIN acts as a repository of information relating to:
(a) Tax payments (through OLTAS)
(b) Tax deductions from TDS returns (both electronically as well as on paper
(c) High value financial transactions coming through Annual Information Returns
Under OLTAS (functional from June 1, 2004) nearly 11,900 branches of 32 designated banks authorized to collect direct taxes are transmitting information of tax payments online through TIN. The TIN is also facilitating in e-filing of TDS /TCS returns, digitization of paper TDS returns and storage of information with respect to deductees available in TDS returns for widening of tax base, using PAN as the principal identifier. Apart from this, TIN has also initiated e-filing of high value financial transactions. The information base generated through these returns would be used for improving tax base and developing an intelligent system of tax information for multi-criteria, multi-level scrutiny and search.