Grin & bear I-T, why's not for you to ask

NEW DELHI: Has your income-tax return been picked up for scrutiny by the income-tax department? You may not get to know the reason. The department is against bringing scrutiny under the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. This means an assessee will not have the right under the RTI Act to ascertain as why his case was selected for scrutiny by the department.

The scrutiny of income-tax returns helps the income-tax department unearth hidden income and raise more tax revenue. It is an audit of the income-tax returns filed by the taxpayer to assess his real tax liability.

The department is against bringingthe selection process under the RTI Act and conveyed its reservations to the Central Information Commission (CIC),a government source said.

Officials say investigations by the income-tax department have already been kept out of the RTI Act purview. In fact, in these cases, information cannot be sought even after completion of the investigation.

For instance, CIC had dismissed an appeal filed by stock brokers Shankar Sharma and Devina Mehra seeking information on the income-tax raid on their premises in 2001 after the Tehelka sting case.

Income-tax department selects cases for scrutiny through computer-assisted scrutiny system (Cass). Cass was developed to introduce transparency and eliminate discretion in selection of cases for scrutiny. It also uses third-party information which the department gets from third parties such as banks and mutual funds under annual information return (AIR) to select cases for scrutiny.

The system is used in 60 cities that are linked through computer network.Commissioners have also been allowed
to pick up cases locally for scrutiny on account of specific information aboutan assessee. The scrutiny for assessment year 2005-06 has to be completed by December 31, 2007.

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