Notice under Section 156

Demand Notice


Understanding Notice under Section 156 – Demand Notice in Indian Income Tax

The Income Tax Department of India issues a Notice under Section 156, also known as the Demand Notice when taxes are due from the taxpayer after assessing their income tax returns. This notice specifies the tax, interest, penalty, fine, or any other sum payable. Understanding how to respond to this notice properly is crucial for compliance and to avoid further penalties or legal issues.

Example of a Demand Notice

After filing their returns, suppose a taxpayer is assessed by the IT Department, which finds discrepancies resulting in additional tax liabilities of ₹50,000. The taxpayer will receive a Notice under Section 156 stating the amount due, including any applicable interest or penalties, with instructions on how and when to pay.

Penalties and Prosecution

Failure to pay the demand specified in the notice can lead to severe consequences, including:

Penalties and Prosecution for Non-Compliance with Section 156 Demand Notice in Indian Income Tax

When a taxpayer receives a Demand Notice under Section 156 of the Income Tax Act, it signifies a tax due that has yet to be paid post-assessment. Failing to comply with the demands of this notice can lead to significant penalties and, in severe cases, criminal prosecution. Understanding these consequences is crucial for taxpayers to manage their tax liabilities responsibly.


  1. Under Section 221, the assessing officer can impose a penalty if the taxpayer does not pay the tax demanded in the notice. The penalty can be as much as the amount of tax arrears, although this is left to the assessing officer’s discretion. The imposition of the penalty is not automatic and can be contested or appealed, but it requires substantial evidence and legal justification on the taxpayer’s part.
  2. Interest under Section 220(2): In addition to penalties for non-payment, interest is charged on the amount specified in the demand notice if it is not paid within the stipulated time. The interest is calculated from the day following the end of the period allowed in the notice.


In more severe cases, particularly where non-compliance is deemed willful and with the intent to evade taxes, the taxpayer may face prosecution. Key points include:

  1. Prosecution under various sections: Depending on the severity of the case, different sections of the Income Tax Act may be invoked. For instance, Section 276B deals with failure to pay the tax deducted at source, which can lead to rigorous imprisonment for a term ranging from three months to seven years, along with a fine.
  2. Severity of Punishment: The term of imprisonment varies based on the amount due and the nature of the non-compliance. For more significant tax dues, the punishment tends to be more severe.
  3. Initiation of Prosecution: Prosecution is generally initiated when there is clear evidence of a willful attempt to evade taxes. It is considered a last resort and is used in serious violations.

How to Avoid Penalties and Prosecution

  • Timely Payment: Ensure that any tax due, as specified in the Demand Notice, is paid within the time frame mentioned to avoid penalties and interest.
  • Communication with the Tax Department: If there are genuine reasons for non-payment, communicating these to the tax authorities can sometimes prevent penalties or reduce their severity.
  • Legal Counsel: In cases where penalties or prosecution are threatened, it might be wise to seek legal advice to understand the best course of action and ensure that rights are protected.

How to Approach the Department

  • Respond Promptly: It’s advisable to respond promptly upon receiving the demand notice. If you believe there has been a mistake, you can file a rectification request under Section 154.
  • Seek Clarification: If the notice has unclear aspects, you can seek clarification from the issuing officer.
  • File an Appeal: If you disagree with the demand, there is a provision to file an appeal before the Commissioner of Income-tax (Appeals). Ensure that you comply with the appeal filing deadlines and procedures.

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Verify the Details: Double-check the calculations and the basis of the demand in the notice.
  • Keep Records: Maintain thorough documentation of all communications and submissions to the Income Tax Department.
  • Consult a Tax Advisor: Professional advice can be invaluable, especially if large sums or legal proceedings are involved.


  • Ignore the Notice: Ignoring the notice can lead to automatic adjustments, penalties, and even prosecution.
  • Delay Payment: Delaying payment can result in additional interest and penalties. Pay as promptly as possible if the demand is correct.
  • Misrepresent Facts: Always provide accurate and complete information to tax authorities.


A Notice under Section 156 is a serious matter requiring immediate attention. Handling it accurately, promptly, and transparently can help avoid additional penalties or legal issues. Always consider professional advice for handling complex tax situations effectively. Remember, the goal is to ensure compliance with tax laws while safeguarding one’s financial and legal interests.

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