The Right to Information Act (RTI Act) which became effective from 12.10.2005 is a simple but very powerful legislation. It has helped the rights of citizens to be recognized. If well utilized, RTI gives a way to know how the Government acts. One can demand information from any Government department or anybody under the supervision or control, whether directly or indirectly, including the NGOs, co-operative societies, etc.
The RTI Act provides citizens a platform to access the confidential information which remains, under the control of governmental authorities at different levels. The legislation can lead to accountability of the different departments of the Government and to check corruption.
Do the provisions of RTI apply to income tax matters?
Grievances against the Income Tax Department have become very common for the taxpayers today. There are some common issues which many taxpayers face for some delay in the Income Tax Department. The RTI can help a tax payer on such common issues.
Common issues faced by tax payers in Income Tax:
The following common issues are often faced by tax payers in India. Inquiries can be made by the tax payers through RTI applications to the Income Tax Department regarding such issues.
1. Income Tax Refunds – Refunds are the most common issues which the assessees face. Presently there are huge differences between the electronic and the manual systems regarding updating and coordination. The taxpayers often complain regarding the lack of coordination between the Assessing Officer and the processing system in connection with revised returns and rectification applications.
An application under the RTI Act can solve this problem very quickly. The process of filing an RTI application in such cases is very simple.
2. PAN and TAN of other people – PAN and TAN of any person or company are the unique identification numbers given by the Income Tax Department. These numbers provide all the confidential information of those persons. One can easily misuse the information of other persons. Disclosing such numbers would reveal all such information and could be destructive for them. As such, disclosure of PAN and TAN of individuals or companies is not permissible. But non-disclosure of PAN and TAN under the RTI Act creates a conflict in the interest of the Indian citizens.
3. Information regarding search and seizure – The highest authority to deal with cases of search and seizure done as per the Income Tax Act, 1961 is the DGIT. Under the RTI Act, the DGIT is an “exempted organization” and cannot be questioned. No applications made to him for getting information are replied. This exemption was not a part of the original Act but was later on introduced through amendment.
4. Status of Tax Evasion applications – Tax Evasion applications are filed before the Income Tax Department by people having knowledge that someone is evading taxes to bring such illegal acts to the notice of the Department. The department provides awards to them who help the Department. As such, if anybody wants to know the result of his filed application, it falls under Right to Information. But the courts think that total disclosure of such information can be misused and that might hamper the procedure of investigation.
5. Rectification Applications – Rectification Applications filed before the Income Tax Department are times are found to be pending for a long time. Filing an application regarding the status of the Rectification Application gives the assessee the information about the process of rectification thus reminding the officer.
The income tax officers at the time of passing assessment orders exercise such authority that their orders cannot be summoned even by the Parliament. The RTI Act overrides the law relating to income tax in such matters.