The income tax department has sent e-mails to 1.72 lakh assessees, including start-ups, companies and individuals, who have outstanding tax demands as well as tax refunds, asking them to provide as update on the payment. However, the department, in the late evening, clarified that it has sent emails to 1.72 lakh assessees only to ascertain the tax refund that it has to make to them.
"We have issued almost 14 lakh refunds & are in the process of issuing more refunds, but need your help in clearing what's pending from your side. A reminder email has been sent to you. Pl respond to it at the earliest so that you are able to receive your refund," the department said in a tweet.
The clarification came after IT sector veteran and co-founder of venture fund Aarin Capital Mohandas Pai on Monday tweeted about it.
"Startups Left Fuming As Angel Tax Makes I-T Returns Complicated @nsitharaman Mam pl see, @PMOIndia @narendramodi Govt had made a promise, to settle angel tax but this is wrong!," Pai had tweeted.
Since April 8 the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has been fast tracking refund payments to help taxpayers in the COVID-19 pandemic situation and has till date issued nearly 14 lakh refunds, involving an amount of over Rs 9,000 crore to various taxpayers, including individuals, HUFs, proprietors, firms, corporate, start-ups, and MSMEs.
The CBDT in a statement earlier in the day said its email seeking clarification from all those who are entitled to get tax refund but also have outstanding tax to pay cannot be misconstrued as harassment.
"These computer generated emails have been sent to almost 1.72 lakh assessees which includes all classes of taxpayers – from individual to HUF to firms, big or small companies including start-ups and therefore to say that start-ups are being singled out and harassed is total misrepresentation of facts," it said.
The CBDT said an opportunity is provided by the department to the assessee to either clear the demand or intimate the status of said demand to the tax department.
Invariably, such communication is made by the department by sending an email to the assessee, informing it of the quantum of outstanding demand and providing an opportunity to pay the demand or respond with evidence regarding payment of the same if already made, or update the status of any other action on it.
It said that the assessees are required to furnish details of the pending demand, whether it has been paid or has been stayed by any appellate/ competent authority so that the department could keep the same in abeyance and do not deduct this amount from refund.
"Thus, following the existing procedure of recuperation of outstanding demand, similar mails have also been sent to 1.72 lakh assessees including start-ups to intimate to the I-T department, the status of the demand outstanding and whether it has been stayed by the competent authority so that appropriate action can be taken for release of refunds without delay to the start-up," it added.
The CBDT also said that these emails are part of the faceless communication and are auto-generated u/s 245 of the I-T Act in refund cases where there is any outstanding demand payable by the assessee.
"In case the outstanding demand has already been paid by the taxpayer or it has been stayed by the higher tax authorities, the taxpayers are requested through these mails to provide the status update so that while issuing the refund, these amounts are not held back and their refunds are released forthwith," the department said.
With reports in certain section of social media, the CBDT said that such communications are just a request for seeking an update response from the assessee for the proposed adjustment of refund with the outstanding demand and cannot be misconstrued as a notice of recovery or be perceived as so-called arm-twisting by the I-T department because the department is duty bound to protect public money by adjusting the outstanding demand before releasing the refund.
"Many refunds are pending for the want of response from the taxpayers and will be issued at the earliest possible once the information is updated," the CBDT added.