The second summer vacation, in a row, is being spent by us locked up in our houses. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be very lethal and has devastated many families. Every one of us has lost many people, near and dear ones, to this pandemic. As professionals, this is the time for us to sit back and introspect whether we have been following COVID-19 appropriate behavior or not. We have to seriously consider to change our work schedules, as well as our work pattern, with the realization that the COVID-19, how much ever unwanted guest it may be, is going to be part of our lives for at least the coming two to three years. As per the experts on the subject, the vaccination against COVID-19 also prevents one from serious consequences, once infected. But, it is not a shield against getting infected. At the same time it is not possible to suspend our professional work for several years. We have to get back to our professional work with the same dedication and diligence, as we used to attend to it, in the pre-COVID-19 times. This is possible if only we resolve to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 appropriate behavior and ensure that at our work places everyone follows the protocol. We can come out of these trying circumstances only through our alert and vigilant approach towards the highly infectious disease. No doubt, tough questions should be put to the Governments, both State and Central, about their preparedness in the wake of the surge and the staggering vaccination programme. We are well aware that the media is doing that job. However, it is very important to understand that no amount of governance will be able to protect you from getting infected or re-infected. The health infra, which is being put in place on war footing, will come in handy once you are infected. The only person who can help you from not getting infected is you yourself. So in the interest of our family, colleagues, staff and in the interest of the society in general let’s follow all possible precautions so that we avoid any future calamities.
In these times of despair I don’t want to strike a pessimistic note. As tax professionals, we are acclimatized to change our work patterns at the shortest possible period of notice. Unfortunately, this quality of our resilience is being taken for granted by our clients as well as the Government. The flexibility shown by us is being considered as our weakness. It is high time that we, professionals, send a tough message to both. In the same vein, let me discuss the vows of the faceless regime in assessments. I have come across several assessment orders which are passed, pursuant to notices issued under section 148(1) under the Income tax Act,1961. The same were challenged by filing Writ Petitions before the High Courts and stay was granted by them against the said notices. However, without bothering for the interim orders, the assessment orders have been framed, raising huge demand in these matters. It seems that this is being done deliberately to create pressure on the judiciary by the tax administration. Sheer number of orders, passed, suggests that it is not a mistake or oversight. In an appropriate matter, this should be brought to the notice of the Hon’ble High Court. Another facet of the faceless regime is scant respect shown to the principles of natural justice. The Central Board of Direct Taxes keeps extending the time limits, applicable to the departmental authorities to pass orders. But, the faceless assessment regime refuses to grant time to the assesses without appreciating the fact that the professionals’ offices are not operational, due to infected staff or the lockdowns, announced by various State Governments. The arbitrary and high pitched assessments are fastening the assesses with huge demands, during these pandemic periods, where the businesses are struggling for the oxygen of liquidity. The assesses are not left with any other option but to knock the doors of the Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution to intervene to protect them from the arbitrary orders, passed in breach of principles of natural justice. It is high time the Hon’ble Finance Minister looks into this urgently and sees to it that all the gains, made by reducing the litigation by introducing Vivad Se Vishwas schemes both under the Direct Taxes and Indirect Taxes, are nullified.
On behalf of all the professionals, it is a humble request to the Hon’ble Finance Minister to interact with us, the professionals, on a regular basis on a common platform. There is one condition, it should not be moderated by the members of the either of the Direct or Indirect taxes Board. Your Honor will appreciate that the Boards are dedicated to achieving the goals, set by you. Their presence in these meetings makes them examples of running with the hare and hunting with hounds. These interactions will be very valuable especially to roll out new schemes, such as faceless assessments. If such an interaction takes place with respect to the Faceless First Appeal, as till now, not even a single order has been passed, the assesses can be saved from the similar kind of agony which they are facing under the faceless assessment regime.
In this issue, we have collected articles on important issues, concerning both under direct and indirect taxes. Eminent professionals have devoted their valuable time to enrich our knowledge. On behalf of the Journal Committee of the AIFTP I sincerely thank the contributors to this issue of the AIFTP- Journal. Please stay at home and remain safe.