About 1 lakh notices issued by the income tax department where there are reasons to believe that individuals have understated their income will be disposed of by March 2024.

"These notices are not just being thoughtlessly sent and I have been assured by the CBDT chairman that by March 2024, these 1 lakh notices will be cleared," Sitharaman says at an Income Tax Day event in New Delhi.

These notices were sent to individuals whose annual income was more than ₹50 lakh. It also included those who did not file returns.

"The board today is not sitting over notices which have been issued and people gaming the system doesn't happen anymore," Sitharaman says, adding that the process is rather more predictable and is no longer a fishing expedition.

Earlier taxpayers had to keep records for 10 years but now tax assessment cannot be opened after six years, says Sitharaman. In 4th, 5th and 6th year, tax officers reopen assessment only under certain situations, she adds.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in May 2023 completed a scrutiny assessment of the 55,000 notices which they had sent following a Supreme Court judgment, says the finance minister.

"I would want to assure the taxpayers that the CBDT is working towards a transparent, responsible, objective and taxpayer-friendly regime," she says.

Sitharaman also appreciated the contribution made by taxpayers, tax practitioners, professionals and stakeholders for having been instrumental in driving India's economic growth and prosperity. The finance minister observed that an increase in tax collection has been achieved in recent years without any increase in tax rates. "It has been made possible through an increase in efficiency of the Department," she says.

The finance minister noted that systemic changes in the direct tax administration like pre-filling of forms, instant PAN, and faceless assessment have boosted the taxpayer's trust and made compliance easy, leading to growth in revenue.

Sitharaman underlined the various reforms introduced by the Union government in the Finance Act 2023 to provide relief to salaried class, start-ups, MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) and cooperative societies. The finance minister stressed upon the necessity to work on widening the tax base while making the tax administration transparent, objective and taxpayer-friendly.

The finance minister called upon the officials of the income tax department to work towards achieving the goal of making India a developed country by the year 2047.

According to Nitin Gupta, chairman of CBDT, the average processing time for returns is now just 16 days, with more than 42% of ITRs having been processed on the first day in the last fiscal. Quicker processing has also resulted in the quicker issue of refunds, which is reflected in the fact that in the last year, refunds issued aggregated to ₹3.07 lakh crore, is higher by 37% over the previous year, says Gupta.

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