New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday came down heavily on the tax boards for allegedly not responding to grievances of the tax assessees and directed their officials to reserve Saturdays to hold meetings with them.
During the Budget Outreach Programme between Finance Ministry officials, the industry and trade bodies in Bengaluru, the General Manager and the Chief Financial Officer of the Karnataka Bank Muralidhar Krishna Rao posed a question seeking clarity on certain provisions of the GST Act and the direct tax deductions impacting the banking sector.
Even before the officials responded, Sitharaman intervened and pulled up the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) officials.
“I’m very curious to know if the CBIC and CBDT are here. Are you all engaging with your own assessees? The questions which are being asked here are not those questions where I want the secretaries of the Ministry of Finance sit here and explain. These are for the boards to be with your assessees,” Sitharaman said.
“I would now tell the CBDT and the CBIC to please keep your Saturday’s free, engage with assessees and give them all the clarification required,” she added.
Sitharaman directed the boards to tell the tax assessees where the glitches were and if there was a policy tweak required or if there was a requirement to change something in the finance bill they can suggest the revenue and the finance secretaries.
According to her, most of the questions asked during the interactive session on budget were related to the two boards, which they were fully empowered to deal with. “It (the questions) just tells me and I’m sorry to have to comment like this on the boards — Are you all sitting in your office and not even accessing your assessees? What’s going on? You’re not expecting the revenue secretary to be talking to the assessees for things which you have every power in your hand to sit and explain? Am I over-reading the situation?” Sitharaman said. Asking the boards to do better, Sitharaman repeated that they have to keep their Saturdays reserved for the assessees.
“You will have to be here every Saturday. Keep yourself open and also on the phone and the emails. Many of the questions here which Tarun Bajaj (Revenue Secretary) has bothered to answer, I would want you (CBDT and CBIC) to answer in person to the assessees,” the Finance Minister said.