Asks the two boards to keep Saturdays open to listen to tax assessees.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday asked the central board of indirect taxes & customs (CBIC) and central board of direct taxes (CBDT) to devote their Saturday’s to address the grievances of assessees, sounding unhappy that the officials were not doing enough to engage with the industry.
Sitharaman was upset because most questions that were raised at her interaction with members of the trade and industry related to tax administration and procedural aspects, and not so much about budget or policy. These questions had come up at this session, she felt, because the two boards were not doing enough to deal with the stakeholders at their level.
“These are not the questions that I want the Revenue Secretary to sit and explain?” she said, as members of the trade and industry poured out their grievances most of which related to challenges with compliance. “Are you all sitting in your offices and not meeting assessees,” she asked officials at CBDT and CBIC, observing that several questions Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj answered related to tax administration, and not tax policy.
These were questions, the finance minister said, the two boards were fully empowered to deal with. The boards will have to do better, she said, and asked officials to make themselves available on phone to assessees to provide clarifications on Saturday.
The two boards, Sitharaman said, could escalate a subject to the ministry if they were related to a policy and required a change in the Finance Bill itself or in the rules.
The finance minister poured out her anger at field level tax authorities after Karnataka Bank general manager Muralidhar Rao raised an issue related to their bank branches in different states having to raise multiple GST invoices with multiple registrations with net result being neutral. She was unhappy that top Finance Ministry officials had to explain issues the board officials ideally should have.
In response to a question, the Revenue Secretary hinted that there are no proposals currently to raise the 5% GST rate to 8%, and rates were likely to stay where they are. He, however, refused to comment on subjects that fell in the domain of the GST Council.
Earlier, in her opening remarks the finance minister said the union budget for 2022-23 stood for continuity, predictable tax regime and planning for next 25 years. The budget stresses upon use of technology and digitization of the economy along with strengthening the support system in healthcare post Covid and added that the PM Gati Shakti aims at collective strength of different departments and a synergetic approach.