With an estimated Rs 4 lakh crore of tax revenue locked up in litigation, the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) has created over 240 new posts of Commissioners (Appeals) to speed up the legal disposal system in the Income Tax department.
"A total of 243 posts of Commissioner of I-T (Appeals) have been created in the department recently. These will be in addition to the existing 360 similar posts and will be filled by positioning IRS officers of the Income Tax cadre," a senior Finance Ministry officer said.
The CBDT, which is the apex policy making body of the I-T department, has been undertaking a host of steps to bolster the litigation management wing of the department which has come under criticism not only from courts but also successive Finance Ministers and in the audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
The senior Finance Ministry officer said these new officers will be in position soon and they are expected to start functioning within this financial year. The CIT (Appeals) office is the first avenue of grievance redressal for a taxpayer in case he or she wants to appeal against an I-T demand.
Faced with a huge number of issues in this arena, the CBDT had also recently constituted a six-member panel to examine the "efficacy" of the existing primary litigation mechanism in the I-T department.
The empowered committee had also been mandated to suggest steps to reduce legal cases at the I-T department's two dispute resolution foras and asked to submit its report within eight weeks.
The Committee, according to the terms of reference issued by CBDT, will carry out detailed analysis of appellate and assessment orders on various aspects and recommend steps to reduce litigation before CIT (Appeal). It will also "study the efficacy of existing system of filing appeals to the ITAT by the department and suggest steps to reduce litigation before the ITAT after analysing various aspects."
A taxpayer, essentially, has a four-stage grievance redressal and litigation mechanism available beginning with an appeal to the Commissioner of I-T Appeals called CIT (A), further up to the ITAT and subsequently to the High Court and the Supreme Court.
In the Budget 2014-15 speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that a tax demand of more than Rs 4 lakh crore is under dispute and litigation before various Courts and Appellate authorities.