The income tax (I-T) department in Mumbai evidently prefers to keep its dark side hidden. This probably explains why authorities are dilly-dallying over giving details of pending high-value refunds under a right to information (RTI) query.
The department not only did not give details of pending high-value refunds but also avoided giving the number of cases in which the refund amount was determined before March 2010, but the refund banker was instructed to release the same only after July 31.
The RTI application was filed by 73-year-old S. C. Chaturvedi, who struggled for six months, since February this year, for an I-T refund of Rs 2.77 lakh. He was forced to make several rounds of the department despite being informed in writing by I-T officials that his refund had been released on February 8. The refund, for assessment year 2008-2009, belonged to his son Ajay (42) who works in the US and who had given the power of attorney to his father.
During his visits to the I-T office in Bandra-Kurla Complex and Churchgate, he was told that higher authorities had instructed them to hold all high-value refunds following a Rs 14-crore refund scam that came to light in January. However, after HT reported his plight, Chaturvedi got his refund this month.
Meanwhile, Chaturvedi had, on July 31, filed an RTI application before the office of assistant commissioner of Income Tax, Circle 24(1) asking some questions. 1: Besides the number of pending high-value refunds and cases where the amount was determined, but the refund banker was not instructed, Chaturvedi also sought a copy of the order directing to keep high-value refunds on hold (because of the scam). He also asked whether the refundable amount would include interest up to the period the amount was actually released.
The department only replied that the refund of more than Rs one lakh requires online approval of higher authorities. It then spoke about Chaturvedi’s individual case, which he had not asked for.
The I-T reply only answered his last question (on interest payable) stating that interest was payable up to the date on which the refund was granted.
“They connected the queries only to my case, which I had not asked for,” Chaturvedi told HT. He said that he had filed the RTI application in public interest and wanted to know how many people were suffering like him.
“They did not give information my questions and only replied to the interest part,” Chaturvedi said. He added that he has now filed an appeal asking the same questions again.
Pending refund has been a big issue in the department. In a meeting on August 5, Chief commissioner of income tax, Mumbai, P. P. Srivastava, had pulled up senior officials for delays in processing returns, which affected clearance of refunds. He had told his officials that as of April 1, 20 lakh returns were pending in Mumbai.