It has been proposed under the IT Circular 3/2009 that if the return is electronically furnished under a digital signature, the tax-payer is not required to furnish the Form ITR-V with the Income-tax Department as a follow up to the electronic transmitting of data in the return. Similarly, any return which is digitally signed by the assessee and filed with an E-Return Intermediary (ERI), who, in turn, submits the return to the Income Tax Department under his digital signature, will also be deemed to have been filed under a digital signature of the assessee and no Form ITR-V is required to be submitted. In such cases, the date of electronic transmission of the data in the return shall be the date of furnishing the return.

It has been further provided that if the assessee does not use a digital signature for electronically transmitting the data, he is required to follow-up the electronic transmission of the data by submitting the Form ITR-V with the Income-tax Department as verification of the electronic filing of the return. In such a case, the date of transmitting the data electronically will be the date of furnishing the return if the Form ITR-V is furnished within thirty days after the date of transmitting the data electronically. In case, Form ITR-V, is furnished after the above mentioned period, it will be deemed that the return in respect of which the Form ITR-V has been filed was never furnished and it shall be incumbent on the assessee to electronically re-transmit the data and follow it up by submitting the new Form ITR-V within thirty days.

The Circular also states that since the Form ITR-V is bar-coded, assessee is advised not to fold the same and post it in A4 size envelope. The assessee shall furnish the Form ITR-V to the Income-tax Department by mailing it to “Income Tax Department – CPC, Post Box No – 1, Electronic City Post Office, Bangalore – 560100, Karnataka” within thirty days after the date of transmitting the data electronically. The Post Box shall deliver all the Form ITR-V to the Centralized Processing Centre (CPC) of the Income-tax Department in Bangalore. Upon receipt of the Form ITR-V, the CPC shall send an e-mail acknowledging the receipt of Form ITR-V. The e-mail shall be sent in due course to the e-mail address furnished by the tax-payers in his return. No Form ITR-V shall be received in any other office of the Income-tax Department or in any other manner.

In the above regard, the following key issues arise for earnest consideration by the CBDT:

(i) Earlier, Form ITR-V was required to be filed by an assessee with the office of his Assessing Officer, which was duly acknowledged by affixing the Department’s stamp and seal on the same. The authenticity of this stamp and seal had evidentiary value, more particularly when copies of the same were required to be furnished before various authorities like Government Departments, Banks, Consular Offices etc. Under the proposed new guidelines, since ITR-V is to be sent by mail to Bangalore Electronic City Post Office, the concerned assessee would not receive any official acknowledgment for the acceptance of the same, except the e-mail communication as indicated to be sent in due course. It, therefore, needs to be provided that the ITR-V accompanied by the E-mail acceptance shall be treated as an authentic acknowledgement of the I.T. Return by all concerned agencies.

(ii) Under the earlier arrangement of filing ITR-V with his Assessing Officer, an assessee was confident of the same having been duly received and acknowledged. In the new scheme as proposed, he would have to now rely on the postal department to ensure that it reaches CPC, Bangalore both safely and within the stipulated time of 30 days. Under these circumstances, the proposed provision to treat the return filed electronically as deemed to never have been furnished, even for no fault on part of the assessee would result in grave adverse consequences such as levy of penal interest under Sections 234A and 234B, deprivation of the claim for carry forward of losses and deductions under Chapter VIA, etc.

(iii) Keeping in view the above, it needs to be specifically provided that an assessee shall not be held responsible for any default on account of a postal mishap and the deeming provisions that the return filed electronically was never furnished shall not operate prejudicially against the assessee. It also needs to be provided that in case an assessee does not receive an E-mail acknowledgement from the CPC within 30 days of his mailing the same, he shall have the option of remailing it again during the next 30 days and that he shall not be deemed to be in default in such a situation.

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