An increased number of Indian Revenue Service (IRS) personnel will be deployed to probe and gather intelligence on cases involving black money, with the government taking steps to free these officials from some of their normal tax collection duties.
This has been made possible by a new notification issued by the finance ministry that increases the upper limit of the tax cases handled by Income Income Tax Officers (ITOS) -- who are the nodal officers for tax collection in the I-T Department -- to Rs. 30 lakh from Rs. 10 lakh earlier.
"The step has been taken keeping in mind the new challenges of the department in the fields of investigation and curbing black money. The income limits for ITOs have been revised after a decade since they were first introduced in 2001," a senior finance ministry officer said.
High-value tax cases worth over Rs. 10 lakh were earlier outside the ITOs' purview and were handled by IRS officers at the rank of Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.
The upward revision in the limits will enable the IRS to focus their efforts on specialised areas like international taxation, transfer pricing, investigation, intelligence and criminal prosecution.
"This new step will enable the department to free up its IRS cadre for tax administration and work in more specialised areas of international tax, transfer pricing, investigation, intelligence and criminal prosecutions," the officer said.
According to new rules, which will come into force from the next financial year, which commences on April 1, 2011, the ITO in "small cities and mofussil areas" will now handle non-corporate returns up to Rs. 15 lakh and corporate returns up to Rs. 20 lakh.
In addition, their counterparts in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad, among others, are empowered to handle non-corporate income up to Rs. 20 lakh and corporate income up to Rs. 30 lakh.
The decision was also taken in view of a large number of complaints to the I-T department and finance ministry that the earlier limits of the ITO were causing increasing taxpayers' burden.
"References have been received by the board from a large number of taxpayers, especially from mofussil areas, that the existing monetary limit for assigning cases to ITOs and Deputy Commissioners/Assistant Commissioners is causing hardship to taxpayers, as it results in transfer of their cases to a DC/AC who is located in a different station, which increases the cost of compliance," the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) notification said.
"The board has considered the matter and is of the opinion that the existing limits need to be revised to remove the above mentioned hardship," it added.
An increase in the monetary limits is also considered desirable in view of increase in the scale of trade and industry since 2001, when the present income limits were introduced, the notification said.
"The new arrangement has been brought so that taxpayers in mofussil areas need not travel to far off places or bigger centres where the Assistant or Deputy Commissioners of I-T have their office. The ITO can now take up cases of more taxpayers," the officer said.
The DCs/ACs -- the next level of I-T officers above the ITO -- will only handle cases above this limit, the notice said.