How to obtain delayed income-tax refunds

Aditya Maheshwari (CA in Practice) (35867 Points)

24 August 2010  

Filing a complaint with the tax ombudsman or under the RTI Act will help ensure prompt return of your money

Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income-tax refund. — FJ Raymond

No simile could be more apt than the one in the quote above. On the contrary, if you have not been able to get your old income-tax refund till now, do not fret! 

In this article, I have explained the procedure for getting the income tax refund quickly. 

As per the latest 'citizen charter' issued by the income-tax department, the government promises to tax refunds within six months if you have filed your tax returns electronically, or within nine months from the date of filing of your returns. However, only a few people receive their refunds in this timeframe. 

To get your delayed income-tax refunds, you can follow either of the two processes below: 

A) Application to the income-tax ombudsman

As a first step, you can write to the income-tax ombudsman stating the facts about non-receipt of your income-tax refund. As per rough estimates, 95% of complaints received by the ombudsman relate to non-receipt of tax refunds or receipt of a lesser amount. The role of the ombudsman has turned out to be effective in case(s) of chronic delays in issuance of income tax refunds, due to loss of relevant documents in the income-tax department. 

In a strange case where my friend's old tax documents were not traceable with the income-tax department, the concerned tax officer volunteered to pay the refund amount from his pocket to avoid any strictures by the tax ombudsman.

Follow the process below to claim your income tax refund: 

l Before you write to the income-tax ombudsman, write a letter to your assessing office stating non-receipt of the refund. Also mark a copy to his superior, i.e. the deputy commissioner or additional commissioner of income tax with all the details and copies of relevant documents like return of income, form no 16 and 16A. 

l If you still do not get your tax refund within a period of 30 days, you can file a complaint with the tax ombudsman in simple letter format stating your name and address. In your complaint, also provide details of the income-tax officer against whom you are filing the complaint. 

The offices of the tax ombudsman are situated in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Lucknow, Bhopal and Kochi. Details of the income tax ombudsman for each area are available at respective IT department offices. 

l The complaint has to be signed by you and if your case is represented by an authorised representative, by the representative too. 

l Please attach copies of the letters filed with your income-tax officer and his superior with your application to the income-tax ombudsman. 

l The ombudsman will try to get the matter settled through mediation between the income-tax department and the person who complained by passing an 'award' in accordance with the guidelines. In most cases, the refund due is issued once the complaint is forwarded to the concerned assessing officer by the tax ombudsman.

B) Using the Right to Information (RTI) Act 

Another equally effective method to get your delayed tax refund promptly is to file an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. There is no prescribed format for making an application. However some states have prescribed a broad format.

The fee payable for this purpose is `10, which can be paid by postal order, pay order, or in the form of a court fee stamp.

The application should be submitted to the commissioner of income-tax under whose jurisdiction you are assessed. 

For the purpose of refund, a simple question in the form of an enquiry may be made. For example, if you have not your received the income-tax refund for assessment year 2008-2009, then after providing the details of the income-tax return filed, amount of taxable income, tax payable, amount of taxes already paid and amount of refund due, you can ask about the status of the refund payable to you. 

However, there is no separate office for RTI. All offices covered under the RTI are required to designate a person as public information officer (PIO) to receive RTI applications with respect to their department.

The application can be typed or handwritten. In case it is filed with the wrong PIO, the person receiving the same has to transfer the form to the correct PIO within five days.

The application will trigger activity for issuance of income-tax refund within 30 days from the date of application.

In most cases, the commissioner of income tax, by whom you are assessed, will provide you details of refund issued to you before responding to the complaint. Thus, to ensure that you get your overdue tax refund immediately, you can use either of the methods discussed above so to enjoy the pleasure of having been shot at and missed. 

Source: DNA Money by Balwant Jain (