Form 45A – Income Tax Department

Last Updated at: Feb 23, 2021
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Form 45A

Search and seizure became a part of the Income Tax Act of 1956 and had since then helped carry out raids and inspections. In later years, Section 132 was substituted by the Finance Act in 1964 and later went through significant changes in 1976. Committees such as the Kelkar and Raja Chellaiah Committee made groundbreaking changes to this Section. However, throughout the years, Form 45A, which serves as a warrant for search and seizure as per the Income Tax Act, has stayed relevant. This article will take a look at the importance of Form 45A and what it is used for. 

What is Form 45A?

As per Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, only the following officers can issue an order for search and seizure.

  1. Director-General of Income Tax
  2. Director of Income Tax
  3. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax
  4. Commissioner of Income Tax, or
  5. Joint Director or Joint Commissioner when empowered by the Board

Hence, any Director General/Director/Chief Commissioner/Commissioner/Joint Commissioner/Joint Director empowered by the Board can authorise a subordinate to conduct such a search. However, the subordinate must not be below the rank of an Income Tax Officer if they wish to carry out a search and seizure order. Such lower-ranking officers who have received the authority to conduct such a search are known as authorised officers, and they receive such authority via Form 45. Form 45A, therefore, serves as a warrant of authorisation under Sub-section (1) of Section 132 of the IT Act.

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Under What Circumstances Can an Officer Issue a Search and Seizure Order?

Here’s a quick look at the various circumstances under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act under which an officer can issue a search and seizure warrant. As per Section 132(1), an authorised officer empowered by the board may issue a search and seizure order if they have access to any of the following information.

  1. Section 132(1)(a): individuals summoned or cautioned under Section 131(1) or 142(1) to submit their account books or financial documents have failed to do so or left out certain documents.
  2. Further, Section 132(1)(b): individuals summoned or cautioned under Section 131(1) or 142(1) are unlikely to produce their account books or financial documents relevant to further proceedings.
  3. Section 132(1): individuals in possession of jewellery, gold, money or any valuable item which has not wholly or partially represented or disclosed these as a part of their income.

Hence, from the above sections, it is clear that the following individuals will be searched using Form 45.

  • Those who have not produced or are not likely to produce their account books or documents after receiving summons or notices.
  • Those likely to possess undisclosed property or income

What Powers Does Form 45A Give an Officer During the Search and Seizure Process?

Search, and seizure authorisation allows officers the power to perform the following duties.

  1. Enter and search any vessel, vehicle, building, or place if they have reason to suspect it holds financial documents, account books, or any other undisclosed income or property.
  2. Break open the locks of safes, lockers, almirahs, and doors if the keys for the same are not available. 
  3. Search anyone who has gotten out, is about to enter, or is within the building, vessel, vehicles, or place if they have reason to suspect they possess financial documents, account books or any valuable item.
  4. Ask and require any individual who has access to such documents. In the form of electronic records to provide access to the authorised officer.
  5. Seize any account book, document or valuable item found via a search and seizure order. However, from 2003 onwards officers no longer have the power to seize bullion. Jewellery and other such items, and instead will make a note of such items.
  6. Place identification marks of any account book or document to make copies or extract information.
  7. Make a note or create an inventory of any money, jewellery or valuable item found.

Additional powers an authorised officer has included the following;

  1. Deemed Seizure – Section 132(1): If officers cannot take physical possession of items. Due to their volume or weight, they may order their owner not to part with it except without prior permission.
  2. Restraining order – Section 132(3) and 132(8A): If officers cannot seize account books. Documents or other valuables for other reasons may order the owner to not part with. Deal with it without prior permission while the officer takes steps to maintain compliance.
  3. Requisition service – Section 132(2): Officers may requisition any central government officer’s service. To assist them in any way possible, and it will be the government officer’s responsibility to comply with such requests.
  4. Examination on oath – Section 132(4): Officers may examine on oath anyone. Who is in possession of any account book, document or valuable item. Additionally, statements made by them serve as evidence in any further proceedings? 
  5. Presumption of ownership – Section 132 (4A): It is presumed that account books found to belong to the person in whose possession they were. That their contents are true and that the signature on them belong to the person who possessed them.

Things to Know About Form 45A

  1. Form 45A is relevant only to the person engaging in any business. Or to the place where such businesses are carried out when surveyed by an income-tax authority.
  2. The powers authorised by Form 45A shall be exercised as per Sub-rules (2) to (14).
  3. All such forms must bear the signature and seal of the issuing officer.
  4. Before making such a search, the officer may call upon. The two respectable inhabitants of the neighbouring locality to witness the Search.
  5. The other such authorisation forms are as follows;
  • Authorisation under Subsection (1) – Form 45A
  • Additionally, Authorisation under Subsection (1A) – Form 45B
  • Authorisation under Subsection (1) of Section 132A – Form 45C
  • Information furnished as per Section 133B – Form 45D