Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday urged tax officials to build trust with taxpayers and called for a makeover of the department by cutting down on litigation and using technology for faceless interaction. “I will give you awards and clap for you when you will achieve the target. I will also clap for you when there will not be any case of harassment of taxpayers,” she said at an interaction with tax officials and traders in PM Modi’s constituency. “Restraint should be the catchword. Go after those who are at fault, but don’t overstretch,” she said. She also stressed on the resolution of tax issues rather than litigation, which kills both time and money. The tax department has lined up a series of changes in the way it communicates with taxpayers as it presents a friendlier face against the backdrop of mounting criticism of it acting in an arbitrary manner. “By Vijayadashmi (October 8), the department should make a 100% switch to a ‘faceless system’ developed by the ministry,” Sitharaman said and also launched an app called ‘GST Sampark’.
The FM said India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies with robust finances, but the country needs to track signs of global recession and its impact. “It’s a matter of debate whether slowdown has been triggered by global or internal factors,” she said. On the slump in the auto industry, Sitharaman said, “Allegations about the government discouraging fuel-operated vehicles to promote electric cars is false. Giving a boost to electric vehicles doesn’t mean the government is neglecting the automobile sector.” She said the government was focusing on two important sectors the small and medium scale industry and agriculture, which are the backbone of the economy. “At the same time, we are trying to tackle problems faced by the banking and non-banking sectors,” she said. Sitharaman said the government has no immediate plans to come out with a special economic package for Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 but will wait for the 15th finance commission’s report.