Putting an end to speculation on the fate of a new direct tax law, Akhilesh Ranjan, recently inducted member in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), was appointed as the new convener of the Task Force on re-writing the legislation on Monday. The panel is supposed to submit the report by February 28, 2019, the CBDT said in a release.
Other members of the earlier task force have been retained, the board said.
The report could have far reaching implications on the current 74 million direct taxpayers in the country, as it aims to reform the very law under which incomes are taxed in India, the Income Tax Act, 1961.
In this regard, the deadline assumes importance for two reasons. One is that the NDA government’s sixth budget would be presented a month before the deadline, making the budget impervious from a possible public debate on the report.
Second, the 2019 general elections would officially be announced around the same time, coinciding with the submission of the report. The model code of conduct for the 2014 elections had begun on March 5, 2014.
With a limited span of three months available with the panel, it is learnt that most of the recommendations in the “work-in-progress” report as of now would be retained. A part of the reason for not making the existing report public, said a senior official, was that the government was wary about another fundamental reform after the teething troubles that followed goods and services tax (GST) implementation.
The task force was originally constituted in November 2017 with Arbind Modi, then Member (Legislation) in CBDT. Despite extending the original May 2018 deadline twice, first in August and then again to September, the panel’s report could not be submitted to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Ranjan, who was the principal chief commissioner of income tax for international taxation, replaced Modi after the latter’s retirement on September 30.
People in the know said that while the entire report is ready, it has not yet got the official status of a report. They said that the main responsibility of the recast panel would be to arrive at a consensus at the core, with due respect to dissent on some issues, if any.
Finance ministry officials had maintained that the discord among the members as well as between the Task Force and the higher ups in the North Block was primarily responsible for the non-submission of the report.