The Union ministry of finance has summoned Infosys managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO), Salil Parekh on Monday over continuing glitches on the new income-tax (I-T) e-filing portal.
In a tweet at 2pm on Sunday, the I-T department also said that the portal is unavailable since Saturday, 21st August.
The finance ministry has summoned Mr Parekh to explain why "even after 2.5 months since launch of new e-filing portal, glitches in the portal have not been resolved."
"Ministry of Finance has summoned Sh Salil Parekh, MD & CEO @Infosys on 23/08/2021 to explain to hon'ble FM as to why even after 2.5 months since launch of new e-filing portal, glitches in the portal have not been resolved. In fact, since 21/08/2021 the portal itself is not available," the department said.
This summon came after Infosys had earlier on Saturday tweeted that the I-T portal is under ‘maintenance’.
The company tweeted again on Sunday afternoon to confirm that the emergency maintenance work continues and the site is still inaccessible. “The @IncomeTaxIndia portal continues to be under emergency maintenance. We will post an update once the portal is available again for taxpayers. We regret the inconvenience,” the company said.
However, hours after Mr Parekh was summoned, Infosys said that the emergency maintenance of the portal had concluded and the portal is live. “The emergency maintenance of the @IncomeTaxIndia portal has concluded and the portal is live. We regret any inconvenience caused to taxpayers,” Infosys added.
Although the ‘emergency maintenance’ of the I-T portal was completed on Sunday late evening, and it went live again, the shutdown had caused considerable embarrassment.
Last week, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said revenue secretary Tarun Bajaj was regularly monitoring the issue and the glitches would be removed soon.
Sunday’s tweet indicates the government’s growing impatience over the quality of service offered by Infosys, with GST and MCA-21 (for corporate filings and database) being other projects where the company’s role came under the radar in a similar way.
While the government has repeatedly blamed the IT vendor for the problems with the new I-T portal, there has been no response from the government on how a faulty system was allowed to go live by officials handling the high-profile project. Some of their colleagues and former tax officials have suggested that sufficient tests were not conducted before the system was launched.
Sources suggest that the portal was ready for launch last year itself, but roll-out was planned to be done in phases, a decision that was changed later.
The new I-T e-filing portal developed by Infosys was launched on 7th June in a bid to ease the tax filing process and expedite the refund issue.
There have been many technical issues which users found and flagged on social media tagging finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Some said that the simplest of tasks like updating the profile were difficult to perform, while some said that the portal was very slow.
In fact, in July, the finance minister had tagged Infosys Ltd
, which is managing the new portal and the company’s co-founder Nandan Nilekani urging them to ensure that the new I-T e-filing portal does not let down taxpayers. She requested them to fix glitches in the new I-T e-filing website urgently and said that easing compliance for taxpayers at the earliest should be prioritised.
Later in July, the Union finance ministry asked the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to constitute a seven-member task force to look into the technical issues facing the new I-T e-filing portal developed by Infosys. In line with the directive, the ICAI constituted a team to analyse the issues.
"I wish it hadn't happened this way. But we are correcting the course and sooner the portal will be as is planned, easy to use," FM Sitharaman had said, further adding, “Infosys is quite closely working with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and the ministry and rapidly, at least from what I hear from chartered accountants and income tax professionals, there is definitely a lot of improvement.”
Tax authorities have refused to offer any explanation on how the department had failed to spot multiple glitches in the platform. The problems with the portal have already prompted the tax department to offer some concessions. However, officials have blamed the snags for a massive slowdown in tax refunds.
For the period between 1st April and 16th August this year, tax refunds added up to Rs49,696 crore as against almost Rs96,000 crore for corresponding period between 1st April and 25th August 2020.
The number of refunds which added up to over 2.55 million till 25 August 2020, has dropped to 2.27 million so far this year. Repeated disruptions in the functioning of the portal have also led to demands to defer the deadline for filing returns apart from seeking other relaxations.
Experts have suggested reverting to the earlier system until the issues in the new portal were sorted out but the finance minister has ruled out the possibility.
Chartered accountants suggest that, while several of the issues have been resolved, new problems keep coming up.
During the recent monsoon session of Parliament, minister of state for finance Pankaj Chaudhary said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha that Infosys has been paid a total of Rs164.5 crore under the project.
He had said the government launched the new I-T e-filing portal as part of the Integrated E-filing and Centralised Processing Centre 2.0 Project.