Delays in income tax refunds, even after the stipulated number of months, are faced by many taxpayers. At such times taxpayers often feel helpless with absolutely no recourse. To address such issues, the government has set up the tax ombudsman’s office in select cities, to address grievances and to provide taxpayers a platform to put forth their issues.
Income tax ombudsman
The ombudsman is an independent body initiated by the government and comprises former income tax officials or officials from the Indian Revenue Service. These officers have been empowered to settle grievances and take up matters to the highest authority, with the sole aim of resolving it. They act as an arbitrator and are independent of the jurisdiction of the I-T department. The ombudsman, however, will not help if the issue is being looked at as an appeal, revision, reference or writ by any I-T authority or appellate authority or tribunal or court. There are 12 offices for the ombudsman, located in Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune Ahmadabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Bhopal and Kochi.
Before you approach the ombudsman, however, submit a written complaint with your I-T officer. If the complaint has not been satisfactorily addressed, or if the officer rejects your complaint, or if no reply is received within 30 days of writing the complaint, only then should the issue be raised to the ombudsman. The complaint should be filed with the ombudsman within one year, after the 30-day wait for a response from the I-T official.
Documents and details
There is no standard format for addressing a complaint to the ombudsman. However, while filing your complaint, the following details must be included.
a) Name, address and PAN of assessee
b) Facts and details about the grievance—date-wise complaints filed, responses, time gap involved, etc.,
c) Copies of the letter of the first complaint made to I-T authorities
d) Other supporting documents such as relevant income proof
e) Relief requested from ombudsman.
Resolving of complaints
The ombudsman acts as an intermediary between the I-T department and the taxpayer. It tries to resolve the issue by hastening the process. The ombudsman has the power to pay penal interest for the duration of the delay. For cases where no resolution is passed in a month’s time of receiving the written complaint, ombudsman could pass a decision called award. If deemed probable, a monetary compensation could be paid by the ombudsman. All decisions taken would be in line with the prevailing tax laws and only if the submitted documents are deemed fit. The decision of the ombudsman thus has to be abided by the I-T department and the taxpayer.
Once the ombudsman’s decision is passed, taxpayers need to make known their acceptance of the decision within 15 days of receiving the letter stating the ombudsman’s decision, or as per the timeframe mentioned in the letter. If one fails to do so, any award proposed shall lapse and be of no effect.