FM Tells CBDT and CBIC to Engage With Taxpayers

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday asked the two bodies dealing with direct and Indirect taxes to devote their Saturdays to address the grievances of assessees, sounding to address unhappy that officials were not doing enough to engage with industry.

Sitharaman was upset because most questions that were raised at her interaction with members of the trade and industry related to tax administration and procedural aspects, and not so much about Budget or policy. These questions had come up at this session, she felt, because of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) were not doing enough to deal with the stakeholders at their level.

“These are not the questions that I want the revenue secretary to sit and explain,” She said. “Are you all (tax officials) sitting in your offices and not meeting assessees.” She asked, observing that several questions revenue secretary Tarun Bajaj answered related to tax administration, and not tax policy.

These were questions, the finance minister said, the two boards were fully empowered to deal with. The boards will to do better, she said, and asked officials to make themselves available on the phone to assessees to provide clarifications on Saturday.

The two boards, Sitharaman said, could escalate a subject to the ministry if it was related to a policy and required a change in the Finance Bill itself or in the rules.

The finance minister poured out her anger at field-level tax authorities after Karnataka Bank general manager Muralidhar Rao raised an issue related to their bank branches in different states having to raise multiple GST invoices with multiple registrations with net result being neutral. In response to a question, the revenue secretary hinted that there were no proposals currently to raise the minimum GST rate of 5% to 8%, and that the rates were likely stay where they were. He, however, refused to comment on subjects that fell in the domain of the GST Council.

Earlier, in her opening remarks, the FM said the Budget for 2022-23 stood for continuity, a predictable tax regime and planning for the next 25 years. The budget stresses upon the use of technology and digitization of the economy along with strengthening the support system in healthcare after covid-19, she said and added that the PM Gati Shakti programme was aimed at collective strength of different departments and a synergetic approach.

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