The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress demands return to Saral

New Delhi, June 6: After the oil price hike, the Congress has another stick to beat the Manmohan Singh government with ' the amended four-page Form 2F for filing income-tax returns.

In place of the existing single-page “Saral” form, tax-payers will now have to fill four pages and give information about investments made and expenses incurred during the year as also loans secured and gifts received.

The new form is expected to reflect the actual expenditure and the cash inflow of an individual. The assessees will have to give the opening and closing balance of their bank statements and the two will be matched.

After a meeting of party general secretaries last night, the Congress decided to oppose the amendment and urge the government to return to the original. Spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “Saral must remain saral (easy) and not become cumbersome.”

Another spokesperson, Rajeev Shukla, echoed him: “In the interest of the common and honest taxpayers, the form should be simplified.”

The functionaries expressed the fear that instead of making the procedure transparent and scrupulous, the new form may discourage taxpayers from filing returns.

Officials of the tax department, which is under the finance ministry, maintained that the cash-flow statement would not be an “intrusion” into the households of assessees as they would be required to give only the lump sum figure for expenses and not the details.

For instance, expenses on children’s education and investments on which tax exemptions are claimed, such as housing loans, would have to be reported but not the break-up.

The government’s stand was it was simply trying to tally the figures so that if people appeared to be spending beyond their means without reporting alternative sources of income, the discrepancy could be checked. Tax department officials stressed that “normal people with normal returns” would find the system “better and simpler”.

However, Congress sources said professionals had approached them to pressure the government to roll back the changes. The commonest complaint was that while the “Saral” form could be filled by the layman, the new form would require assessees to engage professionals to wade through the maze of queries.

Another fear was that once a commitment (on prospective investments) was made, the assessee would have to stick to it.

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