The Finance Minister explained the Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2016 in his budget speech for 2016-17 in specific section for Reducing litigation and providing certainty in taxation. (2016) 381 ITR 9 (St.)(36-37)
162. Litigation is a scourge for a tax friendly regime and creates an environment of distrust in addition to increasing the compliance cost of the taxpayers and administrative cost for the Government. There are about 3 lakh tax cases pending with the first Appellate Authority with disputed amount being 5.5 lakh crores. In order to reduce this number, I propose a new Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS).
163. A taxpayer who has an appeal pending as of today before the Commissioner (Appeals) can settle his case by paying the disputed tax and interest up to the date of assessment. No penalty in respect of Income-tax cases with disputed tax up to ₹ 10 lakh will be levied. Cases with disputed tax exceeding ₹ 10 lakh will be subjected to only 25% of the minimum of the imposable penalty for both direct and indirect taxes. Any pending appeal against a penalty order can also be settled by paying 25% of the minimum of the imposable penalty. Certain categories of persons including those who are charged with criminal offences under specific Acts are proposed to be barred from availing this scheme.
164. I had in my Budget speech of July, 2014 assured that this Government would not retrospectively create a fresh tax liability. I had also hoped then that the cases pending in various courts and other legal fora relating to certain retrospective amendments undertaken to the Income-tax Act, 1961, through the Finance Act, 2012 will soon reach their logical conclusion. I would like to reiterate that we are committed to provide a stable and predictable taxation regime. We will not resort to such amendments in future. I had also announced constitution of a High Level Committee which would oversee any fresh case where the Assessing Officer proposes to assess or reassess the income in respect of indirect transfers by applying the retrospective amendment. In order to allay any fears of tax adventurism, this Committee will now be chaired by the Revenue Secretary and consist of Chairman, CBDT and an expert from outside. This Committee will effectively oversee the implementation of the assurances.
165. In order to give an opportunity to the past cases which are ongoing under the retrospective amendment, I propose a one-time scheme of Dispute Resolution for them, in which, subject to their agreeing to withdraw any pending case lying in any Court or Tribunal or any proceeding for arbitration, mediation etc. under BIPA, they can settle the case by paying only the tax arrears in which case liability of the interest and penalty shall be waived.
Levy of heavy penalty for concealment of income has over the years resulted in large number of disputes despite a number of decisions of the Apex Court on interpretation of statutory provisions and principles guiding imposition of penalty. At present the Income Tax Officer has discretion to levy penalty at the rate of 100% to 300% of tax sought to be evaded. I propose to modify the entire scheme of penalty by providing different categories of misdemeanour with graded penalty and thereby substantially reducing the discretionary power of the tax officers. The penalty rates will now be 50% of tax in case of underreporting of income and 200% of tax where there is misreporting of facts. Remission of penalty is also proposed in certain circumstances where taxes are paid and appeal is not filed.