"Himalayan Blunder" If March 31 Deadline Stays: Tax Officers' Bodies

Two employee associations of the Income Tax Department have written to the Central Board of Direct Taxes, while a body of Indian Revenue Service officers is also pitching for extending the deadline to June-end instead.

'Himalayan Blunder' If March 31 Deadline Stays: Tax Officers' Bodies

Employees have expressed inability to complete the tasks with states going into lockdown.

New Delhi:

Not extending the March 31 fiscal deadline will lead to a "Himalayan blunder" of endangering lives of taxmen, Income Tax employees have warned the government as extraordinary measures are being taken nationwide to check the spread of coronavirus.

Two employee associations of the Income Tax Department have written to the Central Board of Direct Taxes, while a body of Indian Revenue Service officers is also pitching for extending the deadline to June-end instead.

The taxman has to finish tax assessments and payments under the recently launched "Vivad se Vishwas scheme" of settling tax disputes by the end of the financial year in March.

Employees have expressed their inability to complete those tasks with several states going into complete lockdown and the government directing social distancing to fight the transmission of the highly contagious COVID-19, which has claimed 14,000 lives worldwide and infected 300,000 people.

In India, there are 415 coronavirus cases as of today. Eight people have died.

The Income Tax department has three associations - the I-T Employees Federation (ITEF), the I-T Gazetted Officers' Association (ITGOA) and the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).

The first two bodies represent about 97 per cent of the department's workforce, while officers drawn from the IRS make up the rest in top supervisory positions.

The employee groups have written to CBDT urging "closure of I-T offices across the country" till March 31 or a later date. They reason, according to a letter quoted by the Press Trust of India, that the tax department is not providing any essential medical emergency services.

"It can be suggested that the (next financial year) will commence from July 1, 2020...for this an ordinance can be brought which will be welcomed by one and all in the country. Tax measures taken by countries across the world to tackle COVID-19 crisis needs to be emulated by the CBDT," the employees wrote.

"It is an open secret that medical facilities in India is far less than these countries vis-a-vis the population and lack of responsiveness would be a Himalayan blunder for which we will not be forgiven," their letter said.

The IRS officers' association also issued a statement saying it has urged all tax officials to work from home to observe social distancing.

The government had recently directed ministries and departments to allow Work From Home or shifts to reduce chances of infection.

The tax department employees said they would decide their next action if they did not hear from the CBDT by Monday.