Monday, June 27News That Matters

Fix income tax portal

After a bumpy start on June 7, an assurance was given at a review meeting hastily called a fortnight later to sort out the problems flagged by harried taxpayers and chartered accountants, yet the new income tax portal continues to face technical glitches and challenges. Both Infosys, which has developed the new website, and the Ministry of Finance cannot escape blame for going ahead with the much-touted project without ensuring a foolproof, seamless transition, notwithstanding Finance Minister Sitharaman’s honest admission that she wished it had not happened this way and ‘we are correcting the course’. The exercise to invite inputs from stakeholders — the ministry received 700 emails detailing over 2,000 issues, including 90 unique problems, in the portal — should ordinarily have taken place before and not after the switchover.

Information technology major Infosys was awarded the mega contract in 2019 to develop the next-generation tax filing system that would reduce the processing time for returns from 63 days to one day, and expedite refunds. The portal is expected to improve efficiency in tax return filing along with general tax administration. The website will hopefully run smoothly eventually, but the ruse of ‘teething problems’ that see no end is too irresponsible. The tearing hurry to get the project running and in the process causing unnecessary inconvenience is self-defeating. No lessons have apparently been learnt from the GST rollout chaos.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes claims many of the initial issues regarding slowness of the portal or non-availability of functionalities have been mitigated. Facing the heat, Infosys says it has augmented its tech team, increased bandwidths, released new content and that fixing the portal remains its top priority. A lot has been announced, but for the users, several concerns remain, from filing tax returns to problems being faced while dealing with remittances, or downloading documents essential for loan processing. The ‘ease of doing business’ cannot be reduced to an abstract concept that looks good on billboards; a point-by-point resolution of all the issues is the least that is owed.

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