The process of electronically filing Income tax returns through the internet is known as e-filing and is meant to ensure saving of time and paperwork for taxpayers. It is mandatory for companies and Firms requiring statutory audit u/s 44AB to submit the Income tax returns electronically for AY 2009-10. E-filing is possible with or without digital signature.
There are three ways to file returns electronically.
In option 2 & option 3 Assessee need to file Acknowledgement of IT duly signed by him within 60 days from the return filing date or September 30, whichever is later at central processing center of Income Tax department situated by ordinary post at Post Bag No.1, Electronic City Post Office, Bengaluru, Karnataka-560100. Now there is some relief for people looking at this route for filing their returns, but this could well turn out to be temporary.
The e-return filing process starts with the taxpayer filling in various details using the software provided by the tax department. The file, along with the necessary data relating to the income, is then transmitted online to the tax authorities and an acknowledgement-cum-verification form is generated. The physical process starts after this for a lot of people. Since the return is filled in online, this requires a digital signature. In case of a physical return, the taxpayer will sign the return form and then present it but this is not possible online, so the authentication is done through the digital signature route.
But, every person and especially small taxpayers do not have a digital signature and for those who do not, this there is an additional action to complete the process. These taxpayers have to send the physical copy of the acknowledgement to the tax authorities within a specified period of time, in a specific manner. If this is not done, then it will be considered that the payer has not filed the tax return. So, a slip at this stage can render the entire process worthless.
PROBLEMS IN THE PROCESS
Certain problems arise in the physical process of sending across the copy of the acknowledgement. This happens due to a few factors. The first thing is that the copy has to be sent only to the Bangalore office address of the department that has been specified. If sent to any other office, it will not be valid. And, sent by ordinary post only; speed post, registered post or courier is not allowed. If sent through these other modes, the return will not be accepted. Which means the taxpayer has no proof that the post has actually reached the tax department, which causes worry. The time allowed for the taxpayer originally was 30 days from the day of filing the return details online.
A change has been announced by the tax department and this deals with the time allowed for sending the copy to them. This applies for all the returns filed electronically after April 1. For all these returns, the copy of the acknowledgement has to be received by the tax department within 60 days from the return filing date or September 30, whichever is later.
This means the period for receipt of the copy has now been increased to at least 60 days. For a person filing the e-return on August 20, the limit will be 60 days after this, while for someone filing the return on July 15, the limit will be September 30. This gives a slightly longer time period for completing the requirement and helps on the worry if the copy gets delayed in the post. For those who have already filed their returns online, this change is also important, given the extension of the time limit.
The relief available could well turn out to be temporary, as the other issues on loss of receipt in transit and absence of knowledge as to whether the acknowledgement has reached does not go away. Further, the physical copy still has to be sent to Bangalore and not at the regional or other centre. For many, these issues will play a pivotal role in their final decision.