KTBA highlights problems in FBR’s online correspondence system

KARACHI: Karachi Tax Bar Association (KTBA) on Tuesday pointed out various problems in the online correspondence and notice system of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Muhammad Zeeshan Merchant, President, KTBA sent a letter to Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahemd, Member Inland Revenue (Operations) for early removal of difficulties to facilitate taxpayers.

The tax bar held a meeting on October 17, 2020 with the Member IR Operations and discussed the issues. The Member had asked the tax bar to identify and submit a brief list of issues being faced by the taxpayers in general in respect of IRIS notice and subsequent correspondence.

The tax bar in its instant letter said that the mechanism for online correspondence available on the IRIS web portal for the compliances of Income Tax audits / assessments, covers the whole catena of proceedings, right from the issuance of notices, show cause notices to the final assessment order / notice of tax demand takes place on the above given online web portal of the FBR. This has been in vogue from the Tax Year 2014 and onwards.

The KTBA identified following issues in the online correspondence system of the FBR:

1) NEW NOTICE / CORRESPONDENCE:

Presently, as per the applicable features of the web portal, all the notices and new correspondence from the tax authorities are expected to appear under Tab / Caption “Inbox”.

As soon as any online notice / correspondence is made available in the inbox of the taxpayer online ID, it is expected that a separate intimation is issued to notify the development through SMS on the registered cell phone number and on the registered Email ID of the taxpayer. Although, this procedure is being followed in some cases, however, we expect that the same should be followed in all the cases.

2) FOLLOW-UP NOTICE / ASSIGNMENT / CORRESPONDENCE:

As mentioned above, the Email and SMS are being sent in some cases where fresh/new notices are issued, however, this feature of notification through SMS and Email is apparently limited to the development made through inbox only, which means that any subsequent development made by the tax officer through creation of task assignment feature or otherwise, is not presently being notified through SMS and Email.

The absence of this notification, understandably, is creating a severe hardship to the taxpayers and the same is actually resulting in hindrance in ensuring the requisite timely compliance of these notices including but not limited to show-cause notices.

Based on recent experiences of both KTBA Members and the taxpayers, the date of compliance of notice is generally fixed through assignment of notice (i.e. without any notification through SMS, Email and Registered Post/Courier) instead of a notice / letter in inbox, which has resulted eventually in completely unwarranted ex-parte orders in certain cases.

The tax bar said that the issue can be resolved conveniently if all the correspondence are made by the concerned tax officers mandatorily through inbox feature with a proper notification to the taxpayer through SMS, Email and Registered Post/Courier or if a similar feature of notification through SMS and Email is linked to the assignment of notice as well and there must be a pop-up window with “New Correspondence Available” with link of the destination mentioned in the pop-up window.

3) CREATION OF NEW TASK IN ASSIGNMENT IS NOT AVAILABLE NOW WHICH PREVIOUSLY WAS AVAILABLE:

Recently, we have noted that under the “Assignment Tab” of follow-up correspondence, although there is an option for the taxpayers to reply, however, the new task could not be created which is resulting in non-compliance on IRIS system. The taxpayers are then compelled to submit a manual reply which is causing hindrance and the compliance does not reach to the concerned tax officer in time.

Similarly, there is no option of partial compliance in the IRIS system. Presently, there is an option for adjournment or reply only, which sometimes creates problems in making compliances in a phased-wise manner for the taxpayers.

4) ATTACHMENT – FILE SIZE AND FILE FORMAT:

Another limitation which is generally being faced while e-filing the online response on the web portal is that the attachment size cannot exceed 5 MB file size (for a single file). Further, JPEG or any editable file format can only be attached on the web portal while filing a response through a assignment tab which means that other format (including PDF) cannot be attached. The said limitation are creating nuisance to the taxpayers.

5) ONLINE SUBMISSION VIA ASSIGNMENT TASK

Presently, there is no separate “submit button” available for submission of online response via assignment tab on the web portal. The response through assignment tab is submitted as soon as the response is saved online on the web portal, which creating nuisance to the taxpayers.

6) CORRESPONDENCE IS NOT REACHING TO THE CONCERNED TAX OFFICER ON IRIS

The bar members informed the tax bar that the reply submitted online on the IRIS web portal in response to a notice issued by a particular tax officer is delivered to another tax officer on the web portal due to certain technical issue. Thus, the compliance of the notice is apparently not reaching to the relevant tax officer for review and perusal. The same is resulting in an unnecessary hassle to the taxpayers and an uncertainty regarding the compliance of the notice.

SOLUTION / RECOMMENDATION:

Keeping in view the severity of the aforementioned grave issues and the resulting adverse consequences to the taxpayers, the KTBA urged the Member to urgently intervene and issue necessary instructions to all the tax offices for issuance of all the correspondence (including notice / letter) exclusively through inbox feature only with a mandatory intimation to the taxpayer through SMS, registered Email and registered post/courier.

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