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You may be surprised to receive an intimation/notice from the income tax department even if you have filed your income tax returns within the due date. You would not be sure about what it is and how to respond to it. Don’t worry, we will break it down for you to help you understand your notices in detail.
First and foremost, it is important that you understand the difference between an intimation and a notice. There is a very thin line of difference between the two. Intimation is to highlight the outcome of the processing of your return or conclusion of assessment, and you may not be required to act upon it (although there are a few exceptions to it).
However, when you receive a notice, it requires you to act on it. Recently, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has notified a new scheme known as Centralized Communication Scheme (CCS). The scheme states that, gradually, all communications will happen in an electronic mode.
Let us now understand various notices/intimations issued by the income tax department.
After having filed your returns, it is electronically processed by the Central Processing Centre(CPC). The income is computed after making the following adjustments to the total income in the return:
Upon successful processing of the return an intimation under section 143(1) is issued by the CPC under any of the three instances:
In case there is a tax demand, then the intimation must be issued within one year from the end of the year in which the return has been filed. For example, if you have filed your returns for Assessment Year (AY) 2020-21 on 27 July, 2020, then an intimation can be issued anytime on or before 31 March, 2022. Processing of return under this section has been made mandatory from AY 2017-18 even if a scrutiny notice is issued.
The purpose of this notice is to notify the assessee, that the return filed has been picked for scrutiny. It is pertinent to note that the section under which it will be scrutinized is different from the one in which the notice has been issued. Via detailed scrutiny, the assessing officer intends to be assured that you have not done any of the following:
Through this notice, the taxpayer is required to respond to the questionnaire issued along with the documents required by the income tax department. The assessing officer is supposed to service this notice within 6 months after the completion of the assessment year to which it pertains.
For instance, Rohit filed his return on 20th May 2020 for the AY 2020-21. Here notice under section 143(2) can be issued to Rohit within 6 months after completion of the AY to which it pertains i.e. 30th September 2021.
An assessing officer may have a reason to believe that you have not disclosed your income correctly and therefore, you have paid lower taxes. Alternatively, you may not have filed your return at all, even if you must have filed it as per law. This is termed as income escaping assessment. Under these circumstances, the assessing officer is entitled to assess or reassess your income, according to the case. Prior to making such an assessment or reassessment, the assessing officer should serve a notice to the assessee asking him to furnish his return of income. The notice issued for this purpose is issued under the provisions of Section 148.
Previously the timelines to be adhered to for the issuance of notice under Section 148 were as below:
As per amendment in the Finance Act 2021, with effect from 1st April 2021, the time limit up to which the assessing officer can re-open the assessment of the taxpayer is as follows;
Notice cannot be issued by any officer below the rank of Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner. An assessing officer can only issue a notice under Section 148 on the direction of the Joint Commissioner after recording the reasons to do so. For AY 2017-18 notice under section 148 can be issued till 31st March 2022.
Notice can only be issued by the Chief Commissioner or Commissioner is satisfied that income has escaped assessment. The amount of income which has escaped assessment should be more than Rs. 1,00,000. For AY 2017-18 notice under section 148 can be issued till 31st March 2024.
Notice under section 148 can be issued if income in relation to any asset (including financial interest in any entity) located outside India, is chargeable to tax in India but has escaped assessment. For AY 2017-18 notice under section 148 can be issued till 31st March 2034.
As per the current provisions, the notice under section 148 can be issued up to four years, up to six years or up to 16 years, as the case may be. But with effect from 1st April 2021, the new reassessment due dates shall be applicable.
Let us understand the timelines for previous financial years after the amendment in the Finance Act 2021 came in force:
|The financial year for which income escape assessment||Timeline if notice to be issued up to three years||Timeline if notice to be issued beyond three years by up to ten years|
*Hence the assessing officer cannot issue notice for the AY 2015-16 in normal cases. Also, for the financial year 2016-17 the notice shall be issued before 31st March 2021.
If the assessing officer has reason to believe that tax has not been paid for the previous years and he wants to set off the current year refund against that demand, a notice under Section 245 can be issued. However, the adjustment of demand and refund could be done only if you have been provided proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. The timeline to respond to the notice is 30 days from the day of receipt of the notice. If you do not respond within the aforesaid timeline, the assessing officer can consider this as consent and proceed with the assessment. Therefore, it is advisable to respond to the notice at the earliest.
A notice under section 142(1) can be issued under two circumstances:
The information is called for, to enable the officer to make a fair assessment. Being non-responsive to this notice has consequences,