CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra says new measures were brought in only to prevent evaders from selling property.
New Delhi: Allaying concerns of taxmen getting powers to provisionally attach property of an assessee for six months, the tax department today said no authority has been given to any officer to harass taxpayer or abuse law and what has been provided is only to prevent evaders from selling property.
"There is no power at all which has been given to any assessing officer (of income tax) in this country to harass anybody... we will not allow the abuse of any law. Whenever we find, we will plug it," Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra said at a post-Budget seminar here.
Clarifying on concerns over powers of the enforcement officers, he said, "I want to tell you very clearly that no power of the officer vis-a vis the misuse against the assessee has been increased. That is not the endeavour of the government, the philosophy is very clear. Genuine taxpayer should not be harassed at any cost."
Detailing the changes made in the Budget for 2017-18, he said it usually took 4-5 months for preparation of report once an investigating officer referred properties of a potential tax evader to the valuation cell after searches.
This was long enough period for some of the assessees to sell off the properties. "So, to plug that particular thing again, the power has been given to provisionally attach the property. He cannot sell the property. He can provisionally attach the property so that whenever the liability is created after that, you can pay the liability and the property will be released. It is only to safeguard the revenue," he said.
Second, it took 4-5 months from the date of a search being conducted by an investigating officer to go to an assessment officer (AO) who would refer the property of the potential tax evader to the valuation cell.
So now, the powers are being given to the investigating officer for valuation of the property. "That is not increasing power of search," he said. Third, assistant directors, deputy directors and joint directors of I-T have the power of issuing summons, but did not have the power to call information from some other person.
For calling information from a third party, approval of a higher officer, i.e. the Commissioner, is required. "So, if he has got that power of issuing summons to you, I think it was unnecessarily time-consuming to get permission that should I call for that information. So, we have given that power to deputy director, joint director and assistant director. It is not that the assessing officer has been given power to call for information to harass you," he added.
In the Budget for 2017-18, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed to provide taxmen with the power to provisionally attach the property of an assessee for six months either at the time of search and seizure or till 60 days from that date.