First of all, one question must come into your mind that why there is need to file income tax return so answer to this question is that through ITR you provide your income details, tax details, personal details etc. to the Government and it enables Government to complete your assessment and to recover tax and department checks informations or details filed by the assessee like whether assessee has declared all his income, assessee has not claimed excess deductions or exemptions, tax paid by assessee is correct etc.

Assessment proceeding commences with filing of a return by an assessee or with the issue of notice to the assessee to file a return (Where assessee does not file income tax return by his own will or voluntarily and if The Income tax department has some information about you then they will you issue notice to first file your return).

Earlier under Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 there was section 22 regarding return of income (like section 139 of the Income-tax Act, 1961) but this section used to cast responsibility on the department to issue statutory notice by each income tax officer in the press and by publication in prescribed manner upto 1st May in each year and under Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 and delay in filing of return was one of the most important reasons of arrear of assessments and arrear of taxes. Assessee could file multiple application for extension of due date i.e. multiple extension so this statutory notice scheme & multiple extensions, were resulting in delay in filing return. This annual notice system was also resulting into increase in cost for the Government because of cost of publishing of notice therefore annual notice was drag on Income tax administration.

Therefore Income-tax Act, 1961 (which repealed the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922) brought in change in return filing process (on the recommendation of Direct Taxation Administration Enquiry Committee headed by Mahavir Tyagi, this committee submitted report in November 1959)  now responsibility got shifted from department to assessee and this section 139 fixed statutory due dates or definite dates, there were other taxation laws too which had due dates concept for return filing e.g. Wealth Tax Act, 1957, Estate Duty Act, 1953 etc. and that is why, publication of annual notice or statutory notice system got abolished.

Section 139(1) casts responsibility on the assessee to file return within definite time period or upto particular date i.e. due date or belatedly after due due but upto last date of the relevant assessment year or before completion of the assessment whichever is earlier (section 139(4)). Section 139(1) provides statutory time limit and section 139(4) allows to file belated return. Therefore object of section 139 is to give reasonable time to assesses so that they can file their return upto particular time i.e. due date and at the same time to enable Government to complete the assessment proceedings and collect the tax.

Now Clause 32(b) of Finance Bill, 2021 (most probably this Finance Bill, 2021 will become Finance Act, 2021 in last week of March 2021 after Presidential assent) provides that assessee can file belated return upto 3 month before end of the assessment year or before completion of assessment whichever is earlier.

You can refer section 22 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (this Act has been replaced by Income-tax Act, 1961) and section 139 of the Income-tax Act, 1961.


Disclaimer – Author has exercised utmost care while writing this article, but still this article may contain some error or mistake and no part of this article/writing should be construed or considered as any advice or consultancy whether professional or otherwise.

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April 2021