The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Monday issued charge sheets to three senior IRS officers under Rule 14 of CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965, for the violation of CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964, and has divested them of their current responsibilities. The action against them has been taken for "disguising" young taxmen and "unauthorised" making public a report that called for a hike in taxes to fund the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,
The 'tax hike' report named FORCE was being circulated and widely covered in media since April 25, 2020. The report advocated tax hike, the imposition of wealth tax, inheritance tax, the imposition of COVID-19 surcharge. The report created panic and tax policy uncertainty in the already stressed economic condition in the country.
According to PTI, the three IRS officers — Sanjay Bahadur (Principal Director Investigation, Northeast region; 1989 batch), Prakash Dubey (Director DOPT, IRS Association's Joint Secretary; 2001 batch) and Prashant Bhushan (Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi, and IRS Association's General Secretary; 1988 batch) — have been given 15 days' time to submit a written response in their defence to the charge sheets and also on whether they want to be heard in person.
News agency ANI quoting government sources said that these senior officers, despite having more than 30 years of service, failed to exercise due care and went on to misguide the 50 young officers. The government would have definitely given due consideration to suggestions made by the young officers.
However, in this case, the reports instead of being sent to the government through the official channel, these senior officers of the rank of Principal Commissioner misguided them and went public with the report.
Government sources said a preliminary inquiry by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) revealed the "role and complicity" of these senior officers in the preparation of the report. The inquiry showed that while Dubey and Bahadur got junior officers to prepare a report and unauthorisedly gave it to the IRS Association which made it public, Bhushan unauthorisedly put the report in the public domain, the sources said.
The controversial report, prepared by about 50 young IRS officers, among others things suggested raising the highest tax slab rate to 40% for income above a minimum threshold of Rs 1 crore or re-introduction of wealth tax for those with a net wealth of Rs 5 crore or more to help pay for the coronavirus economic fallout.
The income tax department on Sunday said the report did not reflect the official views of the CBDT and the Finance Ministry. It said an inquiry is being launched into why the report was shared with the public.
(With agency inputs)