Friday, June 13, 2008

'File your tax returns in time or face action'

NEW DELHI: Brace up for a call from the Income Tax (I-T) department if you are not filing your returns every year. This time, taxmen have an express instruction from the government to drag you to courts, if the need so arises, to ensure compliance.

With Finance Minister P Chidambaram hopeful of collecting an ambitious Rs 4 lakh crore in direct taxes in the current financial year, the authorities have been instructed to take up as many surveys as possible besides conducting raids on suspect big evaders to meet the target. Soon after inaugurating the two-day conference of chief commissioners and directors-general of Income Tax on June 9, Chidambaram had said that the department had already taken up 15 cases of 'non-filer' (those who have never filed a return) and 'stop-filer' (those who have stopped filing returns) for prosecution.

Hinting at stern action against wilful evaders, the FM had announced that a general direction had been given to taxmen that if during a survey or a search a person is found that he had never filed a return (non-filer) or has stopped filing return (stop-filer) in the last three years, steps must be taken for his prosecution. According to existing provisions of the I-T Act, failure to file returns may land a person in prison for a term extending up to seven years in case he is found to have evaded tax of more than Rs 1 lakh, or a penalty of Rs 5,000 for those on whom tax dues are found but returns are not filed.

Though the law on filing mandatory returns has been in existence for a long time, the very reiteration of the fact indicates the government's intention to invoke its provisions to catch wilful evaders.

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