With the return filing season just around the corner, the Income Tax department is going all out to ensure that more people file online returns. This facility, which started in 2007, has become increasingly popular among tax filers with the number of e-filed returns up from 21 lakh in its first year of inception to about 2.97 crore in 2013-14. This impressive growth can be attributed in part to the IT department's order, which made it compulsory for taxpayers with an income of Rs 5 lakh or more in 2012-13 to e-file the returns. Earlier, the floor was Rs 10 lakh. Also, it is now mandatory for all corporate assesses to e-file their returns.
The surge in e-filing has also helped the growth of a number of efiling websites because even though e-filing has seen a sharp rise, experts point out that many people remain unsure about the laws and the actual procedure. Also, apprehensions remain when it comes to e-filing, especially among people who are not tech-savvy. What if something goes wrong? What if they get a notice from the IT department? Even a seemingly simple mistake in the e-filing can lead to re-filing returns. For these people, online portals ensure that the returns are verified by a chartered accountant.
Nidhi Shrivastava, charted accountant, N Shrivastava & Associates, says, "These online portals are user-friendly and also provide post e-filing services like explaining the implications of assessment orders issued by the tax office". Also, these websites are easy on the pocket. A salaried person with no other income can get his return e-filed through these websites for just Rs 250-300. These websites also allow individuals to file their returns without any help for a nominal fee. Although you can do the same for free from the IT department website, the servers of these websites are less crowded, ensuring glitchfree usage. Here are some other benefits of using these websites:NO NEED TO FILL FORMS
One of the biggest confusion while filing returns is to find out which form to fill and the documents to attach. However, on these websites, the experts take care of these issues. You don't have to worry about which form to choose. All you need to do is upload your form-16, form 16A, bank statements etc. and these portals will automatically extract the data from these form and file your returns. Sudhir Kaushik, cofounder and CFO, Taxspanner.com, says, "Even if you don't want to do it on your own, you can send the PDF of documents through email and we will file the return for you. We also provide the post-return filing services to help people with the tax scrutiny and notices".
Getting the dreaded notice from the IT department can be the worst nightmare for individuals. So, online websites provide postfiling assistance in case their customer gets a tax notice. They reply to the tax notice and if needed, represent their customers in scrutiny cases. They also provide a document vault.
BEYOND FILING RETURNS
Your association with these portals need not end with just filing returns. Some of the portals, like Taxspanner, also help you save taxes. However, these add-ons come at a premium and portals can charge anything between Rs 2,000-Rs 5,000 a year. In return, they take care of your financial planning needs and provide various calculators like HRA, gratuity calculators, etc.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Although these portals seem easy to navigate and use, remember that the information you provide is highly confidential. Therefore, before subscribing to any of these portals, take steps to ensure that the safety of your data. Check that the online portal is dulyauthorised E-Return Intermediary (E-RI) for the confidentiality of data. The IT department authorises these E-RIs and provides number of features necessary for taxpayer compliance. Also, for the security of data one should ensure that the website has CERT-IN certificate (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, Department of Electronics and Information Technology). There are certifying companies for online data security which do testing of the data security provision on global standards. Check whether ERI portal is certified for security and vulnerability by CERT-IN or not.
Apart from this there are certain basic things that you should be careful about like the URL should start with https:// and not just http://. Avoid clicking on links and instead type the web address on the URL.
Shrivastava also adds a word of caution saying that often, a number of these websites do not have professionals on board. She adds that their software may not be updated with the latest tax laws. Also, unlike a personal chartered accountant who is available as per your needs, clarifications needed from these websites are available mainly through emails, which might be a time-taking affair. Remember that although these websites provide a lot of services, a salaried person who doesn't have any income from other sources doesn't need it as filing online returns is a simple process (See: A stepby-step approach to filing your returns).