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CBDT: Taxman seek SOPs from CBDT for re-opening field offices amid Covid 19 outbreak

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Tax officials have sought for standard operating procedures from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, along with exemption from ministry of home affairs, for opening up tax authorities’ field offices that are presently closed due to the nation-wide lockdown.

The All India Indian Revenue Service Association said in a letter to CBDT chairman dated April 14 said that till the time the written guidelines are issued from the top most levels, field offices should remain closed, following state issued guidelines.

“Under the circumstances if the offices are to be opened, we would request CBDT to issue clear instructions along with exemption from MHA to facilitate the same, the modalities thereof,” the association said, adding that the essential services that need to be undertaken should also be mentioned.

“Pending the same we would however request that at present the operations of our offices may be allowed to be subject to the MHA directions applicable nationally,” it added.

Tax officials are working from home amid the lockdown issued by the government in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic outbreak, however, some senior finance ministry officials, including finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, began working from their offices from Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3 on Tuesday, even as several states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Telangana and others had announced state-wide lockdowns the day before.

Many states and districts have operational Epidemic Act provisions, Curfews and other restrictions in force, therefore, the department officers would either have to be exempted by local authorities, or run the risk of prosecution under section 55 of National Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The revenue officers association also cautioned that opening up of the offices could increase the risk of officers getting affected, even as cases of essential services personnel getting infected were on the rise.

“Asking our field offices to open, would not only be increasing their risk, but also placing additional burden on the municipal, medical and other organizations working to contain the virus,” the association said.

“This does not appear an optimal cost-benefit option worth considering in the light of the clear and consolidated MHA instructions currently in force,” said the association’s general secretary Prashant Bhushan.

The association elaborated that social distancing norms could well be compromised if officers wanted to resume routine operations, administrative and reporting requirements, since the process would involve calling drivers, cleaning staff, some subordinates and contingent staff.


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