Income Tax Portal Still Remains the Worst Nightmare for CAs; But for Govt, ‘All is Well’
Moneylife Digital Team 01 January 2022
While the Union government says nearly 58.9 million income-tax returns (ITRs) have been filed on the new e-filing portal as on 31 December 2021, the website, developed and maintained by Infosys Ltd, continues to frustrate taxpayers and chartered accounts (CAs) from across the country. Many CAs contend that their plea, which was rejected by the ministry of finance, was not for an extension of the last date for e-filing of returns but had sought instead a remedy to the problematic e-filing portal. Many of them are venting their frustration on social media.
 
In a hard-hitting letter last month to the finance minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman, the Surat-based Chartered Accountants Association, says, “...if the contract was awarded in January 2019, then even after the passing of 36 months, the front end of the new portal shows a brainless design with various missing drop-down menus, buttons and missing notifications, the backend database frequently loses data of various forms filed by the stakeholders, the migrated data of digital signatures is totally lost after which stakeholders took enormous pains to replenish the database with digital signature mappings again and the overall website developed is pathetic and hapless.”
 
“During these three years, the I-T department and the hired agency has not taken the task of development seriously and has instead developed a portal of a quality which can be developed even by college students in their summer projects. This shows either a severe cost-cutting at the agency’s end in the development and implementation part OR a flawed requirement with wavering mindset provided by the I-T officials to the development agency,” the letter says.
 
 
Till date, the ministry has given numerous extensions to Infosys to resolve the issues being faced by taxpayers and CAs. In fact, in August 2021, FM Sitharaman had even summoned the Infosys managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO), Salil Parekh over continuing glitches on the new I-T e-filing portal.
 
Even in July last year, the FM had tagged Infosys, 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 taxpayers down. She had requested them to fix glitches in the new I-T e-filing website urgently and had appealed that easing compliance for taxpayers at the earliest should be prioritised.
 
 
However, while finance secretary Tarun Bajaj claims that ITR filing is going on smoothly, those who are doing the actual work are somewhat frustrated with the portal. 
 
“...it is rather shameful to note that the stakeholders are at the mercy of a flawed piece of technology and are working day and night for futile exercises like registering and re-registering on the new portal, updating details, digital signatures and missing documents...We re-iterate that most tax professionals and their staff have developed hypertension, insomnia, diabetes, liver and cardiac diseases on account of their sedentary work environment. Similar is the condition of employees of the client staff. People are held hostage in a cyber-world with a ransom in the form of late fees and interest and a threat to levy a penalty or to initiate prosecution. No other words better describe the situation than the term ‘Tax Terrorism’,” the CA Association from Surat says.
 
 
 
“While we do not demand any extension of the due date for filing of ITRs, considering the present situation, the I-T portal must be made fully functional and glitch-free and the I-T department should not impose penalty, late fee and interest upon taxpayers till that happens,” the Association says, while placing their nine demands. 
 
 
Their demands include complete waiver of penalty, interest and late fee, condonation for the delay in filing various statutory forms, immunity from any monetary or other consequence, setting up a grievance redressal committee, alternative facilitation, streamlining the tendering process, fixing accountability, rationalisation of due dates and legal backing for citizen’s charter.  
 
The Association in its letter, also mentions a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The RTI reply shows that, based on preliminary assessment, Infosys was awarded the contract for the new I-T portal for its bid of Rs3,300 crore in January 2019. The sanctioned amount for the work is Rs4,242 crore, which is the maximum amount that the I-T department can spend. The project’s actual cost is not disclosed and is based on work performed. The scope of the work is only available to the bidders and is confidential, the RTI reply shows.
 
“...in today’s fast-moving dev-ops friendly, rapid development and deployment era, such a huge gestation period to implement a stable website is highly questionable and suspicious too. This is especially so when the above RTI clarifies that there is a mechanism to levy a penalty on the development agency, but no penalty has till date been levied. Why has no accountability been set either on the government officials or the agency responsible for the ruckus caused due to the indecisiveness or incomprehensiveness of the personnel causing larger harm and hardship to the people, the treasury and the nation at large?” the CA Association from Surat asks.
 
 
In 2019, the Bengaluru-headquartered Infosys was given the contract to develop the next-generation income-tax filing system to reduce processing time for returns from 63 days to one day and expedite refunds.
 
Infosys had also developed the government’s GST Network (GSTN) portal, used for GST (goods and services tax) payment and return filing. It might be recalled that Infosys had faced scathing criticism in July 2017 over similar glitches on the GST website.
 
 
Even before that, Infosys was handed over the MCA21 portal of the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA). However, users continue to complain about several issues with the MCA21 portal. Moneylife wrote about the problems in 2013, when Infosys took over the website from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). (Read: MCA21 is down for a month after a handover of the management by TCS to Infosys. Why?)
 
Here is the copy of the letter sent by the Chartered Accountants Association, Surat.
 
Comments
manajitmajumder879
5 months ago
Neither Income tax department nor Infosys care for the tax payers plight. Hope the new e-filing portal will soon be improved and made user-friendly. It was very difficult to file ITR1 having no recourse to enlist any assistance.
abhimani
5 months ago
Ordinary citizens are being cheated by Income Tax departments. Have to make efforts many times to file simple return. And due to pathetic portal being charges penalty even though i had filled much before the due date. No justice for ordinary tax payers in India.
sn_sinha
5 months ago
Not only the CAs but common men/women who file their own IT returns have suffered due to the incompetence of INFOSYS and the unwillingness of the govt to listen to the problems of users. One has to repeatedly modify the data in various schedules because it is not saved there properly. Schedule 112A is specially problematic as the csv file format is neither properly designed nor is there any explanation/help about how to fill it. I have been filing IT returns for self and spouse myself since the time e-portal was created and never faced much problem earlier. I consider myself quite tech savvy but this year I had to spend almost 20 man hours just to file 3 returns because of the various glitches in the software. I can very well understand what CAs, who have to fill up data for large number of returns, must have gone through due to incompetence of Infosys and indifference of the Finance Minister and his staff.
r_ashok41
5 months ago
With this sort of highhandedness people mandate may change during the next elections since middle class people and aam aadmi are not getting any solace from the past two three budgets with nothing in sight .More talk and less work
sathya2011
5 months ago
The government is adamant in sticking to their decisions and it is right if they take correct decisions. In this case, it may not be true. But there is no alternative except to crib and put up with it. Sorry state of affairs.
r_ashok41
5 months ago
Govt had extended the due date due to their faulty system not because people wanted it.They should have had both the systems running side by side and old one also so that people could use the same rather than wait for the FM troup to look into the grievances of the people using it.Instead of taking the creator of the portal to task they are telling it is running smooth and showing blind eye to customers problems .Very bad governance unless FM troup heeds to customer grievances otherwise I feel this dept needs more mature people who understands customers issues and gives a patient hearing.Looks like too much arrogance with people in the FM let the users go to hell and let them pay fine inspite of telling so many issues are there.TCS had done a good job and infosys just proves that it is not able to handle such complexity and big size job .Looks like there is someone favouring infosys.
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