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Income Tax Department’s “Project Insight” looks at data management for non-compliance of tax filing

The Income Tax department is contemplating issuing e-Pan using Aadhaar based e-KYC “in less than 10 minutes” by setting up real time PAN/TAN processing centres (RTPC), said Anurag Thakur in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on July 8. He also pointed towards the government’s ‘Project Insight’ – which will promote deter noncompliance and ensure eligible persons pay appropriate tax.

Insights that Project Insight will have

The government’s ‘Project Insight’ demands a lot of insight on tax payers of the country – it aims to collect taxpayers’ data and warehouse it for “data quality management, data enrichment [and] data analytics”. According to Thakur, this project is aimed at “improving compliance and effective utilisation of information in all areas of tax administration”. Under the project:

  • A data warehouse has been implemented with end-of-day integration of key projects/data sources of the Income Tax department.
  • For handling data integration, data warehousing, data quality management, data enrichment and data analytics, an income tax transaction analysis centre (INTRAC) has also been set up.
    • This platform identifies high risk non-filers, selection of cases for scrutiny and processing of information received under Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), FATCA etc.
  • A dedicated compliance portal has been rolled out to capture response on compliance issues for effective compliance monitoring and evaluation.
  • A compliance management central processing centre (CMCPC) has been set up to leverage campaign management approach (consisting of emails, SMS, reminders, outbound calls, letters).

A few noteworthy things: There are some obvious privacy issues that arise with the government having access to such rich data and its processing, especially after the the Economic Survey 2018-19 called privacy an ‘elite’s idea’. Apart from that, the Survey also said that the government might sell certain datasets to private entities for commercial gains and profits – so, is the government creating a dataset of taxpayers and archiving it in its ‘data warehouse’, and will it then consider selling these financial details of taxpayers, to say, private insurance companies, credit rating companies etc.?

Other measures being contemplated to ease tax filing

  • Centralised processing centre (CPC) 2.0 (for ITR): The government has also approved Integrated E-filing and centralised Processing Centre (CPC) 2.0 Project which envisages pre-filling of ITRs by the I-T department and its acceptance by the taxpayer so as to improve accuracy of information contained in the return and drastically reduce the time time taken to process return and issue refunds.
  • E-proceedings: The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has directed that tax-assessment proceedings are to be compulsorily conducted electronically through ‘e-proceeding’ during 2018-19 in all type of cases barring a few exceptions.

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