Income Tax Scrutiny Notice – Don’t panic if your return is under scrutiny
Don’t panic if your return is under scrutiny
For most taxpayers, scrutiny or audit of tax return means long-drawn hassles, furnishing multiple documents and negotiating with officials. Tax returns are randomly selected for scrutiny, where the income-tax officer seeks additional information to verify the taxable income as stated by the assessee. The notice is given under Section 143(2) of Income-Tax Act, asking the assessee to visit the department’s office and produce additional documents. A receipt of a notice does not indicate any crime; it simply means an investigation to find out if any income has escaped assessment.
An individual need not panic if his case is up for scrutiny and must reply to all queries raised either through a letter or by appearing in person. The tax official can demand salary certificate or Form 16, which gives details of gross salary paid and taxes deducted, rent receipts and rent agreement with the landlord, if any rent exemption is claimed, and bank statements. The TDS certificate in Form 16A must be preserved and produced before the income-tax official.
The income-tax department can send the notice within a year from the end of the month in which the assessee filed the return. The notice has a predefined format with the taxpayer’s name, address, Permanent Account Number and the year for which it has been issued, as well as the date and time when the taxpayer should appear before the income-tax officer.
The assessee can also take help from a chartered accountant and produce all documentary evidence to support the tax positions in his return. If one plans to send an authorised representative, a valid power of attorney in his favour is required. If the assessee or his representative cannot be present, an adjournment application should be filed before the date of hearing.
In most cases, the tax official will look into the bank details of the taxpayer and examine cases of interest-free loans, if any, interest earned from fixed deposits, capital gains from mutual funds, etc. Documents supporting them must be preserved for at least three previous financial years and must be produced on demand. Tax experts say most assessees do not preserve these documents and do not even bother to update their passbooks.
The income-tax official will also look at any windfall gains the taxpayer may have received. Proper records should be maintained of the gifts received, including gift deed, as gifts received from non-relatives over R50,000 would be taxable as income of the receiver. However, gifts from relatives and those received on marriage of the individual are exempt without any limit.
After examining the details, the income-tax official will forward the assessment order and the taxpayer’s file to the commissioner of income tax or the additional commissioner. For the income-tax department, the scrutiny and assessment must be completed within 21 months from the end of the relevant assessment year. One must cooperate with income-tax officials as failure to do so will lead to completion of assessment on a “Best Judgment” basis, which means the department can confirm the assessment and finalise one’s income and tax liability.