The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has notified the Centralised Communication Scheme, 2018 which envisages that income tax notices will be sent by a ‘Centralised Communication Centre’ using a digital signature.
The new scheme is a step towards ending the practice of postal notices and the problems associated with incorrect or outdated addresses resulting in notices not getting delivered. Also, no person will be required to appear before the Centralised Communication Center in person or through a Chartered Accountant in connection with any proceedings.
According to the notification, “The Centralised Communication Centre shall issue notice to any person requiring him to furnish information or documents for the purpose of verification of information in his possession.”
The notice, which will be issued under the digital signature of the designated authority, will be served by delivering a copy by electronic mail, or by placing a copy in the registered account on the (income tax) portal followed by an intimation by SMS.
On the part of the income tax assessee, the information or documents called for shall be furnished on or before the date specified in the notice. Also, the designated authority will run a sustained campaign to ensure compliance by way of sending electronic mails, SMS, reminders, letters and outbound calls, according to the notification.
As for processing the documents sent by the assessee, the Centralised Communication Centre can prescribe a machine-readable format in which replies and documents can be sent to such notices. The Centralised Communication Centre can also prescribe the mode of acknowledgement of an electronic notice, web portal to track verification, scanning, data storage, a call centre and mechanism for grievance redressal.
The centralised communication initiative is part of a broader shift towards e-assessment envisaged in Budget 2018. This system is set for a roll-out in all cities where the department has an officer of the rank of Principal Commissioner.
The Government had introduced e-assessment on a pilot basis in 2016 and 2017. The e-assessment structure will be handled by two officers rather than the existing system involving a single Assessing Officer (AO). However, the new assessment system is expected to be voluntary and tax-payers can continue to opt for the existing system of manual submission of documents by visiting the tax office.