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Principles of Assessment


 Principles of Income Tax Assessment

An income tax assessments is a procedure which is performed to determine the taxability, as well as the income and losses of a tax-payer. Assessments are done for a specified tax period. In this article, the principles underlying an income tax assessment are examined.

Quasi-Judicial Proceedings

Income tax assessment, where the taxpayer has to appear before the Assessing officer is considered as quasi-judicial proceedings. A quasi-judicial officer would be entitled with certain judiciary powers for a particular purpose, most commonly for scrutiny assessment. As a general dictum, the concerned officer must comply with the fundamental rule of justice while performing his judicial duties.

Opportunity to be Heard

Assessment under Section  143(3), which refers to scrutiny assessment, can only be performed after giving the assessee an opportunity to be heard. Hearing in this respect means:

  • The assessee should be given an opportunity to produce the necessary evidence to substantiate the particular query.
  • If the officer has further queries based on the documents or evidence submitted, the assessee should be given an opportunity to provide clarifications or furnish the necessary documents.
  • If the officer has gathered sufficient materials to rely on, he should communicate to the assessee the substance of such material, and provide him/her with an opportunity to make statements on the same.

Private Inquiries by Assessing Officer

The assessing officer, if the need is felt, may conduct a private and confidential inquiry. Such an inquiry is performed by summoning witnesses and recording their statements, with or without the knowledge of the concerned taxpayer who is being assessed. The sources of information here could be the rivals of his trade, past employees under the assessee, other experts etc. The assessee must be informed on any pieces of evidence or information against the assessee so that an opportunity to be heard is readily available.

Reference to a Valuation Officer

In a situation where the tax authorities need to ascertain the value of a product, reference can be made to a valuation officer. This is only done for a pending assessment.

Requirement of Materials

The previous records of the assessee are necessary and relevant information for the purpose of assessment. There must be some material related to the accounting year which, along with the previous records, may reasonably entitle the Income-tax authorities to hold that there must be some concealed income during the accounting year which is liable to assessment.

Affidavits as Evidence

An assessing officer may receive an affidavit. If the assessing officer is not satisfied with the affidavit, the officer would call upon the assessee to submit relevant documents in support of the affidavit. An affidavit is a form of evidence.

Books of Account as Evidence

An assessee must maintain proper books of account in the regular course of business. This would constitute substantial evidence for the content, which need not be proved by a court of law.

Piecemeal or Tentative Assessment

The assessing officer is not supposed to make a piecemeal or tentative assessment, he must do it only in accordance with the provisions of the law. For example, he can’t make an assessment based on the data from one or more sources and leave the others undetermined. To re-iterate, he must assess the income only as per the dicta of law.

Quashing of Order

If the order is found to be against the laws prescribed, it would be cancelled. The assessing officer has to either start from scratch or redo it from the area of default.

Invalid Returns

Invalid return (defects in the tax return) would be applicable until the court of law repeals it. Until then, the consequences of such an order would be applicable.

Order must be in Writing

An assessing officer must issue his order in writing, along with the signature. An initial can also substitute a signature but the order would not be passed without adherence to these two vital rules of the provision.

Protective Assessment

Protective assessment is performed to protect the interest of the revenue. This is hardly spoken about, the reason being its rare occurrence. When the assessing officer is uncertain on the original recipient of the income, and there are two or more parties to whom the income could belong to, the assessing officer performs a protective assessment.

Setting aside Assessments

Assessments set aside cannot be re-done by the officer as it may not be the need of the hour, though an appellate order permitting the same would enable the assessing officer to redo it.