Thursday, June 27, 2024

Ensuring Procedural Accuracy in Faceless Tax Assessments: A Landmark Ruling by the Madras High Court

In the case of GE Power Conversion India (P.) Ltd. vs. National Faceless Assessment Centre (Madras, 2024), the petitioner challenged an order issued under Section 143(3) read with Section 144C(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. The petitioner contended that the order, which proposed a transfer pricing adjustment to the total income, was improperly labeled as a Draft Assessment Order. They argued that it was, in fact, an Assessment Order passed under Section 143(3) read with Section 144B of the Act.

Court's Decision:

The Madras High Court held that the order should have been correctly formatted as a Draft Assessment Order under Section 144B(1). However, it was formatted as an order under Section 143 r.w.s 144B. Despite this formatting error, the court ruled that the order was still a Draft Assessment Order and valid in law.

Key Points and Reasoning:

  1. Incorrect Formatting:

    • The order issued by the National Faceless Assessment Centre (NFAC), New Delhi, was electronically formatted using a template meant for orders under Section 143(3) and Section 144B.
    • This led to a mistake in the preamble of the order, causing confusion about its nature as a Draft Assessment Order.
  2. Validity of Assessment:

    • The court emphasized that such a formatting error is not fatal to the validity of the assessment proceedings.
    • The intent of the order was clear from its content, and the label "Draft Assessment Order" was evident from the document itself.
    • The procedural mistake did not affect the substantive rights of the petitioner or the overall integrity of the assessment process.
  3. Parliamentary Intent and Faceless Assessment:

    • The court recognized Parliament's attempt to modernize and streamline the tax assessment process through the faceless assessment scheme.
    • The faceless assessment mechanism aims to reduce human interface, enhance transparency, and improve efficiency in tax administration.
    • Minor technical glitches in the system-generated orders should not derail the overarching goal of a faceless assessment process.

Impact of the Ruling:

  1. Clarity on Procedural Errors:

    • The judgment clarifies that minor procedural errors, such as incorrect formatting of orders, do not invalidate the assessment.
    • This provides reassurance to taxpayers and the tax administration that the substantive aspects of the assessment take precedence over technical glitches.
  2. Reinforcement of Faceless Assessment Scheme:

    • The ruling supports the continued implementation of the faceless assessment scheme, reinforcing the legislative intent to make tax assessments more transparent and efficient.
    • It underscores the judiciary's recognition of the need to adapt to technological advancements in tax administration.
  3. Guidance for Tax Authorities:

    • The judgment serves as a guideline for tax authorities to ensure accuracy in formatting and procedural adherence in system-generated orders.
    • It also highlights the importance of addressing any technical issues promptly to avoid similar disputes in the future.


The Madras High Court's decision in GE Power Conversion India (P.) Ltd. vs. National Faceless Assessment Centre (Madras, 2024) underscores the importance of procedural accuracy in tax assessments while reaffirming the validity of the faceless assessment mechanism. By ruling that minor formatting errors do not invalidate an assessment, the court has reinforced the legislative intent to streamline tax administration through technology. This judgment serves as a crucial precedent for the handling of technical errors in the evolving landscape of faceless assessments.