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Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, India launches e-Office

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) recently launched an e-Office application in over 500 CGST and customs offices across the country.

It will improve governance by automating the internal processes of handling files and decision-making within the government.

The e-Office application’s main module, eFile, enables on-line file related work, starting from receiving and marking dak, operating a file, preparing a draft letter, its approval/signature, and dispatching the signed letter.

Over 50,000 officers and staff are expected to use the application, making CBIC one of the largest government departments to automate its internal office procedures, a press release has stated.

The e-Office application was launched by the CBIC Chairman in the presence of over 800 senior officers of the agency and officials from the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

The launch of the e-Office marks a fundamental change in internal office procedures which, until now, has been based on the manual handling of files and paper movement, a press release stated.

It will complement its many other IT-led reforms that aim to enhance the ease of doing business for trade and industry.

With the development of the e-Office, CBIC hopes to leverage technology to provide ‘faceless, contactless, and paperless’ indirect tax administration.

NIC developed the application, which is supported by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG).

The use of e-Office by the rank and file of the CGST and Customs officers will lead to transparency, accountability, and a positive impact on the environment by cutting down the use of paper and printing.

It is of relevance amid the COVID-19 pandemic as it will help avoid contact with physical files, preventing the possible transmission of any virus.

Also, the e-Office ensures enhanced security as no file or document can be altered, destroyed, or backdated. An in-built monitoring mechanism would identify where the files are held up enabling quick disposal and faster decision-making.

The e-Office is a mission mode project (MMP) under the National e-Governance of India.

The CBIC has also been conducting pilot runs in five cities for a pan-India faceless tax assessment by the end of the year, for transparency and to curb corruption.

As per a media report, the programme was initiated as one of the tax reforms announced last year to limit ‘tax terrorism’ and harassment by tax officials.

The process is virtual and automated, the assessing office does not know or physically meet the person.

The system will be rolled out in a phase-wise manner; the first stage started at the beginning of the month.

The new faceless process will be applicable for primarily machines and electrical equipment imports.

The system will be expanded to include GST assessment and dispute resolutions. Faceless assessment enables an assessing officer, who is physically located in a particular jurisdiction, to assess a bill of entry made at a different customs station, the report explained.

Once implemented, CBIC will establish the National Assessment Commissionerates (NAC) to examine assessment practices for imported articles across customs stations.

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