EPFO clips wings of field offices; No inquiry/investigation without prima facie evidence
The Head office of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has noticed that several field offices have issued notice to employers proposing inspection of past records to ascertain if any allowances that form basic wages have been omitted in the computation of wage structure. The inspections are being carried out though the field offices by quoting the Supreme Court judgement in Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (II) West Bengal and Ors Vs. Vivekananda Vidyamandir and Ors dated 28.02.2019.
The EPFO has clarified that for such notices issued by field offices without prima facie evidence, any subsequent inquiry or investigation should not be carried out as the same is impermissible in law and would lead to administrative action.
Inspections and investigations can only be carried out by following administrative guidelines in instances where it can be determined prima facie that employer has indulged in illegal practice of avoiding Employees’ Provident Fund liability by splitting the basic wage.
In the ongoing case, it has been discussed that no dues can be assessed or coercive action can be taken by the assessing officers till the disposal of the review petition by the Supreme Court.