Haven’t yet filed Income Tax Returns? Last day today; hurry up and save late fee of Rs 5,000
Income Tax Returns will not be accepted unless you have paid the late filing fee.
The default deadline for filing income tax returns (ITR) for the year ended 31 March 2018 was 30 July 2018. For those in business and for whom auditing is compulsory the deadline was 30 September 2018, 31 October 2018 and 30 November 2018 depending upon the type of business assessee.
The late filing fee payable under section 234F of the Income Tax Act, 1961 from the assessment year 2018-19—the debut year of this deterrent provision, is Rs 5,000 for delay beyond the due date till 31 December of the relevant assessment year and from 1 January of the assessment year till the end of the assessment year i.e. 31 March the fee is Rs 10,000.
The government generously waived the late filing fee for a month, i.e. there was no late filing fee if one filed his return during the period 1 August 2018-31 August 2018 in view of the devastating Kerala rains, not restricting the latitude to Kerala residents alone. Section 234F also says that if the total income of a person does not exceed Rs 5 lakh, the late filing fee would be a flat Rs 1,000.
Accordingly, if an individual has a total income of Rs 4,90,000 for the year ended 31 March 2018, he can file his return by 31 March 2019 if he did not do so on or before 31 July 2018 and still get away with a rap on his knuckles—a late filing fee of Rs 1,000. This is slightly akin to the earlier regime where one could wait till 31 March of the assessment year without attracting any late filing fee except that under the new regime a flat fee of Rs 1,000 is payable if the total income does not exceed Rs 5 lakh.
The ITR server is going to witness frenetic activity today from those who have forgotten to file their returns. One could have been blasé about filing the return under the smug impression that there is no outstanding tax liability with the employer for example, having completely discharged your tax liability on your behalf through Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) or you yourself might have faithfully paid all your tax in the form of advance tax. But in neither case will one be spared of the late filing fee.
It is significant to note that section 234F calls this impost a fee and not penalty because there is an elaborate penalty and prosecution regime apart from section 234F which may be invoked against a habitual tax evader and non-complier. Section 234A imposes a penalty of 1 percent per month or any part of the month on the tax outstanding. Therefore, it is possible that one may have to face a double whammy of coming under the purview of both the sections besides facing prosecution and penalty under more rigorous provisions.
It is also significant to note that being fee, it has to be paid along with the return. In other words, the ITR will not be accepted unless you have paid the late filing fee. It is a precondition. The online returns software have been programmed to allow uploading of the ITR only if the requisite fee has been paid. So, hurry up if you haven’t filed the ITR for the assessment year 2018-19. If you file before midnight of 31 December 2018, you can save yourself Rs 5,000.
File your returns before you open the bubbly welcoming the New Year! Best wishes for last minute filers because servers do crash under the relentless pressure exerted by thousands of users at the same time. It has happened with flash sales conducted by e-commerce portals and it has also happened in the past with ITR server.
(The author is a senior columnist and tweets @smurlidharan)
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