Income Tax E-Filings 2.0, Where Art Thou?

Income Tax E-Filings 2.0, Where Art Thou?

The new income tax portal was launched with great fanfare by the revenue department on June 7 but remained inaccessible for the better part on its debut day. It even prompted Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to publicly direct Infosys Ltd., tasked with the revamp of the portal, and its co-founder Nandan Nilekani to address these teething troubles. “Ease in compliance for the taxpayer should be our priority,” Sitharaman said on Twitter.

Nearly 10 days later, nothing has changed, and taxpayers are increasingly getting impatient. “The new portal is really a test of time and patience,” Ameet Patel, chairman at Bombay Chartered Accountants Society, said. Continuing issues with the new portal have prompted the finance minister to organise a meeting with Infosys and stakeholders on June 22.

“The new portal has been fraught with several technical glitches/issues leading to taxpayer inconvenience. Written representations on the problems/difficulties faced in the portal have also been invited from the stakeholders.” - Finance Ministry’s Press Release

Meanwhile, taxpayers are struggling with the most basic functionalities, starting with the login.

The snags start at real basic stage, Patel pointed out, like not being able to login to the portal, or that the 'forgot password' option isn’t working.

“In case one does manage to log-in, most of the utilities are dysfunctional or not yet introduced.” Experts BloombergQuint spoke with pointed out  tasks that they’re unable to carry out on the portal:

The biggest commercial impact is being felt due to the non-availability of online facility for filing of Form 15CA/ Form 15CB, Shailesh Kumar, partner at Nangia & Co., said. These forms are mandatory for making foreign remittances. In absence of this facility, overseas remittances have been held up, which has prompted the government to allow manual filings of Form 15CA/ 15CB till June 30.

Another commonly faced issue is that the e-proceedings tab is also not fully functional, Amit Ganatra, partner at BDO India, said.

This is particularly challenging for the taxpayers who have to file replies to queries asked by the department or upload any supporting documents within a particular time frame. Hopefully, the tax authorities may look at extending compliance timelines, if it takes more time for the e-proceedings tab to become functional.

The glitches on the new portal have also sparked complaints on social media platforms. A user complained about not being able to register a newly incorporated company on the portal.

Users also expressed anger against insufficient testing of the portal.

The portal promised multi-step assistance in the form of call centres, chat bots and live agents. These help options are also not fully active as yet. Yashesh Ashar, partner at Bhuta Shah & Co., suggested an interim solution.

"Ideally, learning from the GST portal experience, the authorities should have provided for a transition period for both—the old portal and the new portal—to run simultaneously for some period to ensure smoothness in operations"

Kumar said glitches are causing day-to-day inconvenience to taxpayers and tax professionals alike. However, the effect of most of the glitches towards regulatory or compliance requirements can be minimised by the government by relaxing the compliance timelines, he said.