Difference Between a "Search" and a "Survey" under Income Tax Department

When a team of income tax officials is deputed to visit a place for “on the spot” verification, in common parlance it is known as a raid. Technically, it could either be a “search and seizure” operation or a “survey” operation. It is important to understand that there is a lot of difference between the two actions. The former is much more serious than the latter one. The major differences are discussed below:


1. The first and the foremost difference is that in a search operation, any premises of the assessee, i.e. residences, shops, offices or any other place can be entered and searched, whereas in a survey action, only such places where business or profession is carried on, i.e. shops, offices, factories, godowns, etc. can be entered.

The residential premises cannot be entered in a survey operation. In fact, a search operation is a necessity where it is believed that incriminating material is lying at the residences of the persons against whom the action is directed.


2. In a search action, entry into the premises can be made at any time, whereas in a survey, entry can be made only during office hours or business hours.


3. In a search action, cash, jewellery or other valuables, if found unaccountd/- utidisclosed, can be seized. In a survey action, cash and other valuables like gold, jewellery, etc. can be counted / inventoried but cannot be seized.


4. The books of account and documents, which are found to be incriminating, can be seized during a search operation. Books of account and documents can be impounded in a survey but cannot be retained by the department beyond a period of ten days without the approval of the concerned Chief Commissioner of Income Tax or Director General of Income Tax.


The above distinctions explain how a search operation differs from a survey action. Procedurally, too, there is a lot of difference between the two. The procedure during search is much more elaborate than that during survey. After the search, assessments for the preceding six years get compulsorily reopened but in a survey case, only such assessments are reported in respect of which incriminating material is found.
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