The direct tax dispute resolution scheme ‘Vivad se Vishwas’, rolled out by the government earlier this year, has generated interest among public and private sector companies to settle cases with a total tax claim of about ₹1.19 trillion.
The government has already received applications for settlement of about 43,000 cases from private sector companies accounting for a tax amount of ₹13-14,000 crores, finance secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey said in an interview. The remaining cases involve public sector companies which have already shown interest in settling cases with a tax amount of ₹1.05 trillion.
“Even during the pandemic, Central PSUs have expressed willingness to settle disputes with a tax amount of ₹1,05,000 crore. They will be filing for it within the extended period,” Pandey said. Assessees have time till 31 December to sign up for the scheme and pay the principal amount without any additional charges by end of March.
The response from corporations indicate that the scheme is set to fetch rich dividends in the government’s efforts to reduce tax litigation and de-clog the overburdened courts. It will also be a source revenue to the exchequer.
The central government has in the last few years taken several steps to reduce tax litigation including offering a scheme to settle legacy disputes relating to excise and service tax. It also raised the monetary threshold for the tax department to file appeals at various judicial platforms. The department had also withdrawn over 13,300 appeals from income tax tribunals, High Courts and the Supreme Court after raising the monetary threshold for filing appeals last August, minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur had informed Lok Sabha on 14 September.
Given the pandemic related hassles, the finance ministry gave extra time to businesses to sign up for the Vivad Se Vishwas scheme which offers assessees the chance to pay the disputed tax arrears without interest and penalty. The scheme also offers immunity from prosecution on settlement of the case.
The government is currently on a drive to ensure that the scheme covers as many disputes as possible and field officers have been asked to reach out to parties and help them sign up for the scheme. Last week, the government gave extra time for those who sign up for the scheme by December end to make the payment without additional charges till end of March.
“Now we are requesting tax payers to complete filing of forms before 31 December. They can make the payment by 31 March 2021,” Pandey explained.
Recently, the ministry took steps to reduce discretion of officers and made assessments and appeals within the department a faceless process using technology to make tax administration less prone to disputes. Under the Vivad se Vishwas scheme, disputes relating to wealth tax, securities transaction tax (STT), commodity transaction tax (CTT) and the tax on online advertisements charged by the income tax department equalization levy are not covered. Picking and choosing issues in an appeal for settlement is also not allowed.