A new procedure announced by the income tax (I-T) department on Saturday will coerce you to pay unethical and punitive tax demand even for clerical errors
The Centralised Processing Cell (CPC) of Income Tax (I-T) Department has mandated by a communication dated 9 August 2014 that “Short Payment Defaults” in the quarterly tax deducted at source (TDS) statements due to unmatched challans has to be closed before you are allowed to download the “consolidated” files from the website of TDS Reconciliation Analysis and Correction Enabling System (TRACES) for relevant statements.
This is another step to offload the job from the I-T department to the taxpayer. Now the assessee will do the job of matching unmatched challans for the department, which will reduce the unmatched tax suspense credit lying with the Government. It will also help the deductee to get his tax credit and avoid undue stress for non-receipt of tax credit.
But what about the hardship for both the deductor and deductee when say through clerical error a wrong permanent account number (PAN) is written into the return and the return gets uploaded? In such a situation there are two likely scenarios:
(i) The PAN entered is completely wrong and not in the IT database.
(ii) The PAN entered exists in the database but it is that of some person other than the actual deductee.
In situation (i) above, the error is thrown up by the TRACES software and one needs to rectify the error by giving the correct PAN in the revised return.
The hardship in this is when the error report appears, the law mandates that for incorrect or non-existing PAN the tax rate should be 20%.
In this case, the deductor has correctly deducted the tax at the rate of say 10% (for professionals and rent) and paid it in time, filed the return too in time, he will still get a default notice and be asked to pay the differential tax and interest thereon!
Even if he files a revised return giving correct PAN, his liability will stand and he will HAVE to pay this unethical demand!!
Is the Government so bankrupt of ideas for raising funds that they are now resorting to taxing clerical errors? If so, then I think tax paying citizens have a right to put the Government in the docks for all the taxes collected and grossly misused/ abused as reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and various exposes, which come out in the media from time to time. Because those errors of omission and commission (deliberate or otherwise) are not clerical they are made by highly educated and qualified people in Government!
Now, if the deductor does not pay this amount, he will not be allowed to download the next quarter’s Consolidated file to correct any errors therein. This is nothing but blackmail and coercion.
In situation (ii) the PAN entered is correct but does not reflect in the actual deductees' Form 26A as a result he gets in touch with the deductor asking the deductor to rectify the mistake. This error actually should not arise at all, as the tax department should have a PAN validation utility being run in the background at the time of data entry into the return form itself. In fact the moment PAN is entered and there is a mismatch of the name in the tax database with that of the name in the return, the return should throw up the error at the time of filing the return – this happens while filing income tax returns (ITRs). When such an error takes place, the tax credit appears in the name of a person who has no clue about the tax credit in his Form 26AS. If he is not aware of the same and files his return through a chartered accountant (CA) or tax practitioner, who uploads the TDS details in the return without verification, then the assessee will get a notice for not disclosing the income relevant to the incorrect tax credit claimed. Then begins the process of hearing etc and trying to prove that the tax reflected in his form 26AS does not belong to him.
The best part is that the I-T department expects a person, who receives such incorrect tax credit, to get in touch with the deductor and have him file a revised return! Can there be something more illogical and stupid than this? Does the assessee have any clue who has deposited the tax into his PAN? How can he find out who the deductor is, in any case?
There is an option for obtaining “REFUND” of excess TDS paid – in fact the TRACES site has a “refund” tab, which has not been activated. Cases of refund may arise when a deductor pays tax under section 194C by mistake instead of 194J, and subsequently pays tax under section 194J. He does not have any payments under section 194C for the rest of the year, thus he is entitled to a refund. There is a provision under law for obtaining this refund, but I suppose this refund process has not been activated as crores of rupees may go out of the Government kitty, which it is currently enjoying. Given below are two screen shots which show the above.
To conclude, I would like to say that the overall computerisation of the I-T Department is a commendable effort, it still has a lot of room for improvement and making the entire system transparent and user friendly. Using a hammer when a sweet could do the job is not the way of making the system transparent and user friendly.
The country has 39 mt of coal in stock at various places. On the other hand, power producers are reeling under fuel shortage with a stock that would last for seven days. It is inconceivable that 39 mt of coal piled up in just one day. Hope the government take necessary action against all those responsibile for this situation
Nearly half of the Indian thermal power plants in the country, which depend upon coal, are reeling under fuel shortage with less than seven days in stock! The first step is to overcome such a dangerous situation by promulgating an ordinance, if necessary, to ensure that all these units have at least 15 days inventory, so that there is no shut down leading to a power crisis.
Set against this unfortunate hand to mouth existence, Power Minister, Piyush Goyal has just discovered that 39 million tonnes (mt) of coal are in our stocks, at various places, but not moved to or delivered to the power generating consumers! This would mean, most regrettably, that at various coordination points, nobody was doing his/ her bar chart right, to ensure that goods are on the "move" so as to reach point of consumption.
When monsoon begins, with India Meteorological Department (IMD)'s projections, everyone concerned ought to know the way wind blows and what type of rains can one expect in a given territory. And be prepared for it. It is also the time, when power generators plan shut downs for over hauling of their thermal plants, as power needs are lower at this point of time.
Take the case of Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corp (AP GenCo). They have announced shutdown of several of its thermal power plants in the state, as hydel power generation increases during the monsoon. AP GenCo will take up overhauling of a 500 MW and 2 x 210 MW plants at Dr Narla Tatarao Power Station in Vijayawada and another 210 MW at Rayalasemma Thermal power station. Generally, 15 to 30 days are needed for this overhaul and the Southern Regional Power Centre and the Central Electricity Authority has been notified with the shutdown schedule. In case of AP Genco, they expect to overhaul all their units by end of December each year, so as to render hassle-free service during summer.
Reverting back to India's main coal supplier, Coal India Ltd (CIL), against the target of 35.80 mt, CIL has achieved only 33.1 mt. Likewise, during the first four months of this fiscal, CIL production was only 141.34 mt against the output target of 148.43 mt. And the off-take during April-July was a target of 171.43 mt while only 157.59 mt was achieved. Power Minister, as also the power generators, needs to know what caused them to fail in this manner. Discussions and debates in the past have revealed the bottle-necks in the clearing of coal from pit heads, non-availability of rakes, or delays in getting them in time. Besides, the exclusive corridors for transporting the precious coal to points of consumption have not been made ready.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been proposing to develop inland waterways to overcome the communication bottlenecks in railway transportation, as the originally planned "dedicated" corridors are not yet ready and fully functional. Inland waterways, if planned and developed, would greatly reduce the strain and dependence on railways. Already, barges have begun supplying imported coal to the Farakka Super Thermal Plant in the absence of land based transport alternative. Inland waterway transportation would be cheaper and definitely congestion free.
From the press reports, it appears that the NDA will endeavour to give a decisive push to make Ganges-Hooghly waterway navigable for freight movement by vying for a Word Bank loan upto $1 billion (about Rs6,000 crore) and for which the Inland Waterway Authority will be having discussions with them. The government plans to have a few barrages on the Ganga from Allahabad to Haldia to facilitate movement of larger vessels.
As a matter of interest relating to inland waterway utilisation, China has already 15,000 kms of navigable waterways and hopes to add 5,000 kms more in the next decade. On the contrary, India has not made much headway in this direction. However, it plans to spend Rs1 lakh crore on the development of waterways of which Rs20,000 crore are expected to be financed by the government itself, while the rest may come from borrowing or from public sector.
Such developments will take time to achieve. However, what is of immediate importance is to have top priority consultations amongst the Ministry of Coal, Power, Railways and the Coal India officials, duly and actually represented by the CMDs of the seven subsidiary coal mining companies to know the ground situation to move the coal piling up everywhere. Information from CIL could be "doctored" and need not necessarily be as per the ground situation as experienced by the shipping mining unit.
It is inconceivable that 39 mt of coal did not pile up in just one day. This backlog must have been going on for months and it is truly a shame that all the concerned officials did not take adequate steps to overcome the impasse, and let it grow in size to this level. They need to answer why they let this grow into a big balloon.
All the officials concerned in all these Ministries are to be held ACCOUNTABLE and those who did not do their job need to be given a golden handshake at the worst. No government can tolerate this sloppy work that hurts the nation. Railways must make the rakes available and ensure speedy movement of the coal cargo on a priority basis.
No excuses. CIL needs to deliver the goods.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Software created by the controversial UK based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the US
Software created by the controversial U.K. based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the U.K., Germany, Russia, Iran and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica.
It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer email addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer and the Qatari government.
The leaked files — which were posted online by hackers — are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma's software to spy on dissidents, journalists and activist groups.
The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. "I think it's highly unlikely that it's a fake," said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group's software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday.
The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events — such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.
Gamma has not commented publicly on the authenticity of the documents. A phone number listed on a Gamma Group website was disconnected. Gamma Group did not respond to email requests for comment.
The leaked files contain more 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material including software code, internal memos, strategy reports and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets' computers and cell phones.
A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million.
The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer 'exploits.'
Exploits include techniques called "zero days," for "popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more."Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.
Vupen has said publicly that it only sells its exploits to governments, but Gamma may have no such scruples. "Gamma is an independent company that is not bound to any country, governmental organisation, etc.," says one file in the Gamma Group's material.
At least one Gamma customer listed in the materials is a private security company.
Vupen didn't respond to a request for comment.
In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user's machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software.
Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft's Bitlocker.
Mike Janke the CEO of Silent Circle said in an email "We have serious doubts about if they were going to be successful" in circumventing the phone software, and that they were working on bulletproofing their app.
Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.
The documents also describe a "country-wide" surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target's computer.
The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2nd, which coincides with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack, and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak.
On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. "Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents," the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also "Phineas Fisher."
GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company's malware was used to target activists in Bahrain.
In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.
Senior reporter Julia Angwin and Jonathan Stray, special to ProPublica, contributed to this report.