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How to file a complaint

Neha Pandey Deoras / Mumbai 05 Sep 12 | 12:25 AM

Though the Indirect Tax Ombudsman Guidelines has been around since 2011, not many know about it. According to S Dutt Majumder, Indirect Tax Ombudsman (Delhi), it has not taken off and will take some time to do so. The office has received very few complaints since April. The Indirect Tax Ombudsman (Delhi) has jurisdiction over Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

The ministry of finance had announced seven offices (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Lucknow) of the Indirect Tax Ombudsman last year for faster disposal of complaints related to grievances against Customs, central excise and service tax departments.

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Even individuals can write to the Ombudsman with complaints against service tax. Majumder says they have received a couple of complaints from individuals pertaining to service tax. But many of these complaints have been rejected on grounds of not being filed in the prescribed format. “Certain basic conditions will have to be followed before lodging a complaint with the ombudsman," writes Majumder in an awareness note.

According to the guidelines, a person may file a complaint in writing either himself or through his authorised representative to the ombudsman having jurisdiction over that office.

Then, either you or your representative will need to sign the complaint. You should give your complete name and address, name of the office and official against whom you are complaining, the reason behind the complaint, preferably supported by relevant documents and the relief sought from the ombudsman. You can file a complaint electronically as well. While the ombudsman will start looking into your case, your signature will be required on a print of the same at the earliest, otherwise the case can be stalled.

It’s not that you can approach the ombudsman directly in case of a grievance. Majumder says the complainant first needs to file a complaint either to the grievance cell of the department against whose officer he/she has a complaint against or to the officer superior to the one you have a complaint against. Secondly, if the complainant does not elicit a reply from the authority complained to within a month of writing to him or the complaint was rejected or was not satisfactory, only then you have to go to the ombudsman.

It’s the same with banking and insurance ombudsman. You can approach the consumer court or high court if you are not happy with the redressal of the ombudsman. Needless to say, the redressal process can sometimes test you patience.

COMPLAINTS TO OMBUDSMAN
When
  • Deficiency in the working of customs, central excise and service tax departments
  • Delay in refunds, release of seized books of accounts, taxpayer registration, giving effect to appellate orders
  • No acknowledgement of letters or documents, non-adherence to prescribed working hours, rude behaviour of official(s)
How
  • First approach the grievance cell of the office concerned
  • If you don't get a reply, or complaint is rejected or reply is unsatisfactory, approach ombudsman in a year
  • Complaint should be in writing; signed, stating your name, address, official's name, reason behind the complaint
  • Complaint can be filed electronically also but you need to sign a printout for complete redressal
  • Complaint should not be frivolous, on same matter(s) settled by the ombudsman previously
  • Complaints on matter(s) before the revenue department or appellate authority or court is not accepted

In this case, you should knock at the ombudsman’s door within one year of receiving the reply from the concerned office (customs, central excise and service tax). If you do not get a reply from the concerned department you should approach the ombudsman within 25 months of receiving the reply from the office concerned. “Most complaints received from individuals are frivolous as most don’t understand why they pay service tax, and, hence, it gets rejected," said a CBEC official, who did not want to be named.

The main grounds on which you can file a complaint are issuance of refunds or rebate beyond the prescribed time limit, adjudication, registration of taxpayers, giving effect to appellate orders, release of seized books of account and assets, non-adherence to the principle of ‘first come first served’ in sending refunds and to rules prescribed for disbursement of drawback. But, these are more from the business point of view.

Individuals can complain against unwarranted rude behaviour of the official if you approached him, non-acknowledgement of letters and documents sent to the office/official and violation of administrative instructions and circulars by the officials and so on.

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