Tuesday, 24 June 2014

TARCs recommendation for Customer Focus

Customer focus
A taxpayer is the entity that approaches the tax administration and thus comprises the latter's customer. Yet the prevailing treatment of the taxpayer by the tax administration requires much to be improved in reflection of global practice. Customer Focus reform therefore is the first need. It comprises Chapter II and the first set of recommendations

The TARC recommends that:
 There should be a dedicated organisation for delivery of taxpayer services with customer focus for each of the Boards. There should be an exclusive Member in each Board for the taxpayer services. The taxpayer services vertical under each Board would be headed by an officer of the rank of Principal Chief Commissioner, who would be responsible for delivery of taxpayer services. This implies dedicated resources and personnel for this vertical.

 Taxpayer service delivery will be located under one umbrella for large taxpayers, i.e., the CBDT and CBEC will jointly function for large taxpayers through Principal DG (LBS).
For other taxpayers, i.e., medium and small, the operations of the CBDT and CBEC will continue in separate chains.

 Officers and staff at all levels of tax administration should be trained for customer orientation. Further for people posted in this vertical, the training in customer focus need to be more specialized and intensive. This training should be appropriate to the areas in which such officers are deployed such as customer relationship, measurement of customer satisfaction, taxpayer education, etc.

 In line with the international practice of spending 10-15 per cent of the administration’s budget, a minimum of 10 per cent of the tax administration’s budget must be spent on taxpayer services. At least 10 per cent of the budget for tax administration should be allocated and spent for ICT-based taxpayer services.

 Sufficient funds must be allocated to conduct customer research including, in particular, on customer surveys.

 In redressing taxpayer grievances, the decision of the Ombudsman should be binding on tax officers. To bring independence and effectiveness to the office of the Ombudsman, nongovernment professionals should also be inducted in the post.

Pre-filled tax returns should be provided to all individuals. The taxpayer will have the option to accept the tax return as it is or modify it. In either event, the filing process would be completed with the submission of the tax return electronically.

 There is an urgent need to revisit the present citizen’s charter to make it more meaningful and customer focused. The citizen’s charter should be renamed the taxpayer’s charter to focus on all categories of taxpayers.

 There should be a regular stakeholder consultations on the issues of tax disagreements and tax law changes. The Commission recommends a permanent body for stakeholder engagement. The recent experience of the Forum through which many issues were resolved between stakeholders and the tax departments should become a continuing activity.

There should be a system for online tracking of dak/grievances/applications for refund etc. It should be made mandatory to receive all dak through a central system generating a unique id. The ASK software implemented by CBDT provides such a mechanism in a limited manner. This needs to be extended to all offices. The functionality to enable the taxpayer to track the status of his application/grievance online should be added to the ASK system.
Similar system for online receipt of application should be enabled on the indirect tax side.

 Continuous benchmarking of the tax administration, particularly in relation to delivery of taxpayer services, with that of other tax administrations should be done to highlight the area of focus.

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