Taxpayers beware! You can now be prosecuted even if you fail to file your income tax return on time

The Delhi High Court has recently approved initiating prosecution proceedings under Section 276CC of the Income Tax Act 1961, against an individual taxpayer for not filing ITR and failing to respond to the tax notices sent to him. In this case the individual taxpayer had failed to submit his tax return for 3 consecutive Assessment Years – 2003-04 to 2005-06 – within the time prescribed under the Income Tax Act. The tax officer initiated prosecution proceedings by way of filing criminal complaints on the taxpayer for failure to respond to notices issued under the Act. taxpayer had submitted that the fresh notice issued in place of the original notice did not stipulate the specific time within which the compliance had to be completed Therefore, he could not be held to be in breach of the statutory obligation and hence no prosecution should be initiated against him. On appeal before the Revisional Court, the taxpayer’s contention that no tax was due for AY 2004-05 to 2005-06 was rejected. Basis the SC decision, it was held that the prosecution charges be initiated against the taxpayer for AY 2004-05 and 2005-06 for non-filing of return irrespective of the fact that refund was claimed. Aggrieved, the taxpayer and the Revenue filed petitions before the High Court High Court observed that the assessment proceedings are not related to criminal prosecutions. The HC rejected the ground that no time was stipulated for the fresh notice, and held that the fresh notice issued cannot supersede the previous notice as it is not the intention of the law to allow an indefinite period for compliance of such notices. In case of AYs 2004-05 and 2005-06, the HC opined that the Revisional Court took the correct view in directing initiating prosecution proceedings. In view of the above, the HC held that the prosecution proceedings will continue against the taxpayer, and directed the parties to appear in the trial court.

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