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National centre for IT e-assessment to be set in Delhi; CBDT issues order

As per the procedures under the scheme, the national e-assessment centre, as a nodal agency, would facilitate the conduct of e-assessment in a centralised manner. (Illustration: Shyam Kumar Prasad)

To enact the faceless e-assessment scheme, the government has announced setting up of a national e-assessment centre (NeAC) in New Delhi. In an order, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), said the centre will exclusively focus on e-assessment and will have 16 officials. The e-assessment centre will headed by a Principal Chief Commissioner of Income-tax (PCCIT) as its chief.

The NeAC will be an independent office looking after the work of e-assessment, the recently notified scheme for faceless and nameless assessment for income taxpayers.

The CBDT has appointed 1984-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer K M Prasad the chief or PCCIT of the new Centre, while 1993-batch IRS officer Ashish Abrol has been appointed the Commissioner or second-in-command of the new unit.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier said the e-assessment scheme will be rolled out from 'Vijayadashami' on October 8.

The government had last week notified the e-assessment scheme to facilitate faceless assessment of income-tax returns through completely electronic communication between tax officials and taxpayers.

In case of a modification, an opportunity for a personal hearing will be provided to the taxpayer and such hearing shall be conducted "exclusively through video conferencing,'' the notification had said.

The NeAC will serve notices to the assessees specifying the issues for selection of their case for assessment and after a response is received from them within 15 days, the centre will allocate the case to an assessing officer using an automated system, an earlier notification by the government had said.

"A person shall not be required to appear either personally or through authorised representative in connection with any proceedings under this scheme (e-assessment) before the income-tax authority at the National e-assessment Centre or Regional e-assessment Centre or any unit set up under this scheme," the notification had stated.

Sitharaman had announced the proposal in her Budget speech on July 5, calling it "a paradigm shift".

She had said the system of scrutiny assessments in the I-T Department involves a high level of personal interaction between the taxpayer and the department, leading to "certain undesirable practices on the part of tax officials".

"To eliminate such instances, and to give shape to the vision of the Prime Minister, a scheme of faceless assessment in electronic mode involving no human interface is being launched this year in a phased manner.

"To start with, such e-assessments shall be carried out in cases requiring verification of certain specified transactions or discrepancies," she had said.