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Income Tax Survey


Income Tax Survey

An income tax survey is an investigative procedure carried out by the income tax department to ascertain the actual income earned by a taxpayer for a financial year. Income tax surveys are conducted to obtain a detailed understanding of a taxpayer’s financial position. The Income Tax Act mandates certain rules to be followed while conducting an income tax survey. In this article, we look at the rules and regulations pertaining to an income tax survey.

Purpose of an Income Tax Survey

Income tax surveys are conducted to serve the following purposes:

  • To authenticate the taxpayer who has not filed income tax returns despite receiving taxable income, and thereby prompting the assessee in paying the requisite taxes along with the penalty or interest, as the case may be.
  • To conduct a surprise inspection in order to ensure the proper and correct maintenance of books of accounts.
  • To collect information relevant to the assessment/re-assessment.

Types of Income Tax Survey

Income tax surveys fall under the following three categories:

  • A specific survey is conducted on the business premises of the taxpayer.
  • Survey of ostentatious expenditure is performed to inspect the nature and scale of expenditure on various events like marriages, birthday parties etc.
  • A door-to-door survey is conducted on-premises where business and commercial activities are being pursued.

Powers of Income Tax Officer to Conduct Survey

Authorisation for Income Tax Survey

Income tax survey can be conducted by an authorised income-tax authority. An authorised income tax authority can be any of the following:

  • Commissioner
  • Joint Commissioner
  • Director
  • Joint Director
  • Assistant Director
  • Deputy Director
  • Assessing Officer
  • Tax Recovery Officer
  • Inspector of Income-tax

Before conducting an income tax survey, the concerned officer must get prior approval from an officer not below the rank of a Joint/Deputy Commissioner.

Powers of Officer for Income Tax Survey

During an income tax survey, the authorised income-tax authority or officer has the following powers:

  • To inspect books of account and other documents and make a mark of identification on them.
  • To verify cash, stock or other valuables.
  • To make an inventory of cash or other valuable articles.
  • To obtain relevant information or record of a statement.
  • To approach a higher authority for the conversion of a survey into a search and seizure action.

However, the Income-tax officer’s role is limited when it comes to the survey. He may inspect the books of account or other relevant documents available on the premises. He can make identification marks on the books of account or documents. However, removing inventories during a survey does not factor among the responsibilities of an income tax officer. Any evidence or relevant documents found must be dealt with the laws of taxation and not by the officers conducting the survey. An officer cannot function beyond recording statements and issuing a summons.

Rights to enter Premises

An income-tax authority may enter any of the following places during an income tax survey:

  • Within the designated area limits.
  • Any premises of an assessee where the authority exercises jurisdiction.
  • Any designated premises pursuing business, commercial or charitable activities.

No surveys shall be conducted after business hours. However, if the survey has already been initiated before the close of the office day, surveys can extend beyond hours.

Rights of the Taxpayer During a Survey

During an income tax survey, the assessee in-charge of the premises is bestowed with the following rights:

  • Verification of the identity of the officials.
  • Ensuring that the details mentioned in the warrant are in concurrence with the details revealed by the authority. For example- the address of the survey premises, the reason for the survey, and so on.
  • To obtain a copy of the order of survey.
  • To avail the services of a legal practitioner.

The persons who are present in the premises, whether it is an owner, employee, or trustee, must also extend co-operation in the following manner to the authorised officer for the completion of the income tax survey in a timely manner:

  • Provide the officer with the necessary facility to inspect such books of account or other documents as required.
  • Allow the income tax officer to verify the various inventories like cash, stock etc.
  • Providing the necessary information as inquired by the officer.