Indians are the most eco-friendly consumers in the world, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Geographic Society. However, not many of us know that filing taxes online can go a long way in preserving our environment and improving our reputation further. An estimated 27,500 trees are cut down every year because only 16 per cent of the 3.26 crore tax assessees e-file their tax returns, while an overwhelming 84 per cent take the physical route. In the United States, more than 70 per cent of the tax returns are filed online.
Why do 2.74 crore prefer to fill out tax forms physically and then stand in serpentine queues to submit their returns? The real problem, it seems, is not poor Internet access or non-availability of computers. It has more to do with the mindset and misconceptions that taxpayers harbour about e-filing. We debunk some common myths so that readers may feel encouraged to use this easy, efficient and eco-friendly mode of filing their tax returns.
MYTH: I'll need a digital signature to be able to e-file my tax return.
REALITY: You need a digital signature only if you want to file your returns completely online. You won't need one if you e-file your returns and then post a signed ITR-V form to the income tax office in Bangalore. The new rule, which requires a taxpayer to send the ITR-V form by post, has made the submission process very convenient.
MYTH: There is a greater chance that e-returns are picked up for scrutiny.
REALITY: Returns are scrutinised at random and the selection procedure has nothing to do with their being filed online or physically. In fact, there is a greater probability of a physically-filed return inviting scrutiny. The information filed in physical returns is ultimately fed into the computer by operators. If there is a typing error in this process, the discrepancy is captured by the computer and the taxpayer can be served a notice. On the other hand, e-filing portals reduce the chances of errors because the tax is calculated as you fill in the form. If the result is different because of a typing error, you can go back and rectify the mistake.
MYTH: My tax and income details are not safe if I file the return online.
REALITY: All registered e-filing portals send the tax returns uploaded by assessees to the Income Tax Department. The government website uses the latest software to make it fully secure. There is very little chance of it being hacked.
MYTH: Why should I pay? Physical returns don't cost anything.
REALITY: E-filing through the government site is free. Some private portals also offer free filing. Others offer various packages. Also, consider the cost of your time and the environmental cost that Mother Earth pays for every return that is filed physically.
MYTH: The ITR-V form may get lost in transit or reach the Bangalore office late.
REALITY: Though the ITR-V form has to be sent to the Bangalore office by ordinary mail, there is very little chance of it getting lost in transit. The CPC is supposed to send you an acknowledgement within 8-10 days of receiving it. Ankur Sharma, Director of e-filing portal Taxspanner.com, advises e-filers to wait for 8-10 days before sending another ITR-V form. There's no need to panic because one has to submit the ITR-V form within 30 days of e-filing. However, if your ITR-V doesn't reach Bangalore in 30 days, your e-return will be void and you will have to file a revised return.
MYTH: I won't be able to revise my return if it has been e-filed.
REALITY: E-filed returns can be revised in the same way as those filed in any other manner. All e-filing portals allow you to file revised tax returns.