The last date to file your income tax returns (ITRs) is July 31. All Indians, including NRIs, with a gross total income of over Rs 2.5 lakh have to mandatorily file returns. The threshold for senior citizens (above 60 years) is Rs 3 lakh while that for super senior citizens, aged over 80, is Rs 5 lakh. Significantly, all to file individual taxpayers are now required ITR electronically - only super senior citizens and assessees with annual income of under Rs 5 lakh, who are not seeking a refund, can choose to do so in paper form.
The first step is to correctly pick the ITR form that applies to you:
The remaining ITR forms apply to companies, trusts, institutions, political parties, colleges, investment funds and the like and the dedicated tax filing portal of the Income Tax Department (incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in) does not cover them.
Once you know which form to pick, keep your Form 16 and investment details handy and then follow the following steps on the portal:
Remember that starting this year, the Income Tax Department will provide pre-filled ITR-1 forms that will state your salary, FD and bank interest income, TDS details, capital gains from securities, dividends, tax deductions claimed under Sections 80C to 80U and your contact information. This data will be collected from multiple sources such as banks, your Form 26AS, the TDS return filed by your employer, your previous year's ITR, stock exchanges, mutual funds, EPFO, State Registration Departments, etc.
To be on the safe side, go through all the pre-filled date carefully and correct any errors that you spot. The idea behind this move is to make the process of filing tax returns faster and less cumbersome for individual taxpayers. However, apart from ITR-1, the other ITR forms have not been covered by this facility yet.
Apart from the steps mentioned above, taxpayers also have the option of downloading the ITR preparation software from the Income tax website, filling in the information required, generating the ITR data in XML format and lastly uploading it on the e-filing portal.
The last step is to upload a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC), if applicable, so long as its registered with e-Filing. The DSC is a must for filing ITRs that need to be audited. Click on 'Submit'. On successful submission without DSC, your Income Tax Return-Verification (ITR-V) form would be displayed on the screen. Click on the link and download the ITR-V. You can then choose to either instantly e-verify your tax return - say, via Aadhaar on the same portal - or paper verify it by sending a signed copy of the ITR-V to the Department's Centralized Processing Centre (CPC) by post within 120 days from the date of e-filing.
You can also choose to file your ITR on Cleartax or Taxspanner, where you get the handy option to upload your Form 16. This makes things much simpler for the taxpayer. Fill in all the details required over the next several pages and proceed to e-filing. Here, too, you need to e-verify your ITR.
According to the Revenue Department, over 1.46 crore tax returns have already been filed so far. It's in your interest to not wait till the nth hour to file your ITR. Missing the July 31 deadline - unless the government announces an extension in the days ahead - can prove to be costly. The penalty for ITRs furnished on or before December 31 is Rs 5,000, but double that amount for later filings. However, if your taxable income is below Rs 5 lakh, the maximum penalty will be Rs 1,000. On the other hand, if the tax evaded "exceeds Rs 25 lakh the punishment could be 6 months to 7 years" the Income Tax Department says on its website.