Tax woes? Try and see an ombudsman

The taxman might sound a fearsome character for many of us, but tax laws do have adequate protection and safeguards for you too. You should know how to use them to get your due on time and also to contest any charge that you feel is unfair.
There are “ombudsman”, who is a government official whose job is to examine and report on complaints made by ordinary people about the government or public authorities. In India, the income-tax authorities have also introduced the concept of ombudsman with the objective of enabling resolution of complaints relating to public grievances against the income tax department and to facilitate the satisfaction or settlement of such complaints.

The ombudsman is appointed by the central government and is usually one who has previously held a post in the Government of India. The ombudsman is independent of the
jurisdiction of the income-tax department.
Further, the central government is required to specify the territorial jurisdiction of each ombudsman. Currently, there are 12 locations including New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Hyderabad, at which ombudsman offices have been stationed.

However, the government can notify additional locations and appoint ombudsman for each such location.

The ombudsman can be approached on many grounds, such as:
>> Delay in release of income-tax refunds
>> Non-credit of tax paid including tax deducted at source (TDS)
>> Impolite behavior of the tax officials
>> Delay in allotment of permanent account number (PAN)
>> Delay in disposal of interest waiver / rectification applications / giving effect to appellate orders
>> Lack of transparency in identifying cases for scrutiny and non communication of reasons for the same
>> Any other administrative matters as may be prescribed.

Before approaching the ombudsman, one is required to write a letter to the income-tax authority, superior than the one complained against regarding your complaint. Also, only if such authority has rejected the complaint or the complainant does not receive any reply within one month or is not satisfied with the reply given to him by such authority, then he may approach the ombudsman.

The complaint to the ombudsman has to be made within one year from the date the aforementioned period of one month expires. It has also been clarified that the ombudsman will not help if the subject matter is being looked into an appeal/writ etc. by any income-tax authority/court.

In case you have a grievance against the income-tax department, you need to file a written/online complaint with the ombudsman which is duly signed by the individual/his authorised representative. Such complaints should specify details like name, address and PAN of the complainant, name of the office and official against whom the complaint is made, facts and the supporting documents and the relief sought from the ombudsman.

The ombudsman considers the complaints and facilitates the satisfaction/ settlement in respect of the same between the Income tax authorities and the complainant.

For cases where no resolution is passed in a month’s time of receiving the written complaint, the ombudsman would pass directions to the Income-tax authorities which would be a speaking order. If deemed probable, a monetary compensation could be ordered by the ombudsman, which cannot exceed Rs 1,000.

The decision of the ombudsman is binding on the income-tax department and the complainant, subject to other conditions.
It is the duty of the ombudsman to protect individual taxpayers’ rights and reduce his burden.

He is also required to identify issues that increase compliance burden or creates problem for taxpayers and report the same to the prescribed authority so as to better the whole tax process.

Taxpayers, therefore, have an avenue for redressal of their grievances and may make the most of the facility as required.

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