Filing tax returns? Take the online route

Jul 28 2016,

The internet has made life simpler in several aspects, including one of the most laborious annual rituals – filing tax returns.

Since the time it was first introduced in 2004, the electronic mode of filing returns has been attracting an increasing number of followers every year. For the assessment year 2015-16, the income tax (I-T) department’s e-filing portal ( had recorded over 4.33 crore e-returns filed. This year, the website has received close to 63.5 lakh e-returns as of June 2016, with the number set to see a sharp rise as the due date draws closer.

However, increasing reliance on the internet to carry out routine tasks is not the only reason for this spurt in the rate of adoption. The seemingly-smooth and swift transition from physical filing to the online mode has been amply aided by the government’s efforts to encourage tax-payers to make the switch. After making online filing mandatory for corporates earlier and those drawing a taxable income of over Rs 10 lakh in 2012-13, the I-T department cast the net wider by bring this threshold down to Rs 5 lakh in 2013-14. And, the results are there for all to see. Contrast this with the scenes across banks, I-T department and chartered accountants’ offices a few years ago, when unending queues added to the tediousness of the process.

The benefits of going online

Its rising popularity is a pointer to the rewards that e-filing has to offer to tax-payers. The most important benefit? No more waiting in queues. You can file your returns and pay taxes from the comfort of your home. The online process is quick, convenient and environment-friendly. With a few clicks, you can complete it at one go instead of making multiple trips to several offices, saving on commuting expenses along the way. Moreover, you can do it entirely on your own with minimal or no help from anyone. Another advantage of the virtual medium is that it makes rectifying errors till the returns are actually filed easier. Even if you need to file revised returns to make modifications, you can do so online. The process of tax refunds, too, is faster and more efficient.

E-filing in its truest sense

What’s more, constant innovations by the I-T department to encourage online filing of returns has meant that starting last year (2015-16), the process, end-to-end, has become completely paper-free thanks to the introduction of the electronic verification code (EVC).

Until assessment year 2014-15, the process involved physical intervention at the last hurdle–-you had to take a print-out of the acknowledgement form ITR-V (verification), sign it in blue ink and send it the I-T department’s central processing centre in Bengaluru within 120 days of filing the returns online. Alternatively, you could use your digital signature, if you had obtained one, to complete the process online.

While you can still exercise these options, the I-T department introduced a much simpler alternative –EVC– in the assessment year 2015-16 that entirely does away with this paperwork. The e-filing portal allows you to generate an EVC using net banking, bank account number, demat account number or your registered email ID and mobile number. You can generate an AADHAAR OTP (one-time-password) by linking it to your PAN. You have to enter the OTP, which will be sent to your registered mobile number, upon prompting by the e-filing site at the time of uploading returns to complete the process. Now, the EVC facility is also available through ATMs of select banks.

Help’s at hand

While the process has become much simpler over the years, it’s far from easy for many tax-payers. Right from choosing the relevant return form to calculating and paying taxes, it is remains a time- and energy-consuming affair. This is where private e-return intermediaries have a role to play. Over the years, they have been instrumental in bringing many sceptics into the digital fold by simplifying the process further. All you need to do is enter certain details, answer questions or upload your Form-16 on such user-friendly portals, which take over from there. If you are willing to shell out a nominal fee, you get access to expert advice too.

Whether you choose the self-help route or opt for some hand-holding from private e-filing portals, it is clear that the return-filing process has ceased to be as taxing as it was earlier. At your end, you only need to make sure that you do not put it off until it is too late.

Vaibhav Sankla
Direcor, H&R Block India
Source : Moneycontrol

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