How Infosys is stalling millions of Indians from filing their taxes

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Costing over 4,000 crore rupees, the new electronic tax filing portal built by Asia’s second-largest software service provider is filled with glitches and frequently inaccessible. The portal that was ideally meant to ensure a better user experience than the old one has turned into quite a headache for the taxpayers’ and the Finance Ministry.

 

In 2019, as part of the government of India’s ambitious Digital India programme, Infosys was awarded the contract to build a taxpayer friendly e-filing portal that can reduce processing time from 63 days to just one day. A few years down the lane and three months since its launch on June 7, 2021, the new portal is riddled with glitches and remains inaccessible more often than not.


Presented with a motto of ‘Reset, Realign and Restart!’, the portal was touted to be a strong technology backbone that could expedite refunds, allow new payment options such as credit cards, UPI and net banking, and enable seamless interactions.


Even after spending over 4,000 crore rupees, the portal is a far cry from the flawless interaction that was promised and has turned into a nightmare for taxpayers.


The e-filing portal by Infosys, during its launch (Image credit: Money9)


"This new portal is almost non-functional from the day of its launch and has witnessed many defects which have prevented the taxpayers and other stakeholders from performing their legal compliances," informed Bombay chartered Accountants Society.

"The most fundamental and basic defect observed by many users which ideally should have been tested before the launch is that the new portal does not even allow users to login and access their accounts," the organisation noted.

In August, the central government summoned Infosys to talk about the glitches. Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister, spoke to Salil Parekh, MD & CEO of Infosys, and asked him to fix the issues and get the functionalities of the portal running by September 15. Salil informed Sitharaman that over 750 people are already working to ensure a glitch-free experience for the taxpayers led by Pravin Rao, COO of Infosys.


From failure to link old data for past returns, capture of incorrect details from Form-16 to frequent outages, the users are facing more and more challenges with each passing day.


The due date for ITR is now extended to September 30 from July 31.


This isn’t the first time that the company has run into trouble with a government project. The tech giant’s tardy work on MCA21 (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) and the GST network (Ministry of Finance) projects are a few examples.

"This is the second major Government of India project Infosys has messed up. The first was the GST portal. Now it is the income tax portal," said Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.

"They clearly lack either capacity or intent to deliver. Two 'failures' in a row cannot be coincidence,” he added.


So, what went wrong?

According to recent media reports, it was a flurry of misjudgments and miscalculations when it comes to timeline and resources. From inflexible milestones, lack of ownership from the government on these projects to undefined scope, these struggles ate into the delivery of the portal.


The glitches in the e-filing portal (Image credit: Tax on Tips)

"They (government) did not define the scope properly and launched it in a rush,” a source familiar with project development told Moneycontrol.

As the tax filing deadline inches closer, calls to revive the old website have grown louder, but the government remains averse to the idea. The ministry clarified recently that the old e-filing website was not the best option anymore, since the features required to file new ITRs were missing in the old one.


Taxpayers and professionals have started taking to Twitter and blaming the company as well as the ministry for rushing into the launch of the new portal without carrying out proper trial runs and testing.


Chartered accountants who were already tormented with job losses and an economic slowdown during the pandemic, are now being pushed into further despair due to the inadequacies of the new portal.


"Who will compensate the CAs and tax professionals? The staff is without work for over 80 days," lamented Sudhir Halakhandi, who has been working as a chartered accountant for over 30 years.


Could Cavale save this sinking ship?

On their part, the Bengaluru-headquartered company has assured the government that they will fix the issue and said they will meet the expected timelines.


The IT bellwether reported a strong April-June quarter and was expecting to see a change in leadership that may now be put on hold. The company’s India business head Raghupathi N Cavale was all set to retire and make way for Karthikeyan Neelakandan, Vice-President. However, with this crucial income tax portal project drawing government ire, Cavale was persuaded to postpone his retirement.


Infosys’ India Business Head, Raghupathi N Cavale (Image credit: IIM Sambalpur)


Infosys now sees him as its chief sailor that could man the sinking tax portal project, considering his expertise in dealing with bureaucrats and handling government projects.


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff.

 

Some resources and links to help you learn more on this -


Infosys' tax portal: A wake-up call for both govt and IT vendors


Income Tax e-filing portal glitches: Finance Ministry summons Infosys CEO Salil Parekh