Penalty clause spurs filing of IT returns within deadline

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New Delhi : A total of Rs 5.42 crore income tax returns (ITRs) were filed till the end of extended August 31 deadline this year showing an improvement of around 71 per cent over returns filed during the same period last year, the government said on Saturday.

Almost 34.95 lakh returns were uploaded on August 31 itself, which was the last day of the extended due date of filing returns, it said.

The present surge, analysts said, could be because of the penalty clause introduced from assessment year (AY) 2018-19 under which filing returns after the August 31 deadline will attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000.

However, the government said the increase was due to several factors and the penalty clause was only one of them.

The increase "reveals a marked improvement in the level of voluntary compliance of taxpayers which can be attributed to several factors, including the impact of demonetisation, enhanced persuasion and education of taxpayers as also the impending provision of late fee which would be effective on late filing of returns", an official statement said.

"This is indicative of an India moving steadily towards a more tax-compliant society and reflects the impact of continuous leveraging of technology to improve taxpayer service delivery," it added.

With the end of the deadline on Aug 31, people can still file their returns after paying a penalty. Return filing till December 31 will attract a penalty of Rs 5,000 which will double in cases of filing done till March 31, 2019. However, if the total income is up to Rs 5 lakh, then the maximum penalty is only Rs 1,000.

Till August 31 last year, the total number of returns filed were 3.17 crore. However, till March 31, 2018, the number rose to 6.85 crore.

The government said a "remarkable increase" was seen in the number of ITRs filed by salaried Individuals (ITR-1 and 2) as also those availing the benefit of the Presumptive Taxation Scheme (ITR-4), under which a small taxpayer can declare income at a prescribed rate and, in turn, is relieved from the job of maintaining of books of account.

"The total number of e-returns of salaried individual taxpayers filed till August increased to 3.37 crore from 2.19 crore returns filed during the corresponding period of 2017, registering an increase of 1.18 crore returns translating into a growth of almost 54 per cent," the statement said.

"A stupendous growth has been witnessed in the number of returns e-filed by persons availing the benefit of presumptive tax, with 1.17 crore returns having been filed compared to 14.93 lakh returns up to August 31, 2017 registering a massive increase of 681.69 per cent," it said.

The deadline for filing the returns was extended last month for salaried individuals and those with business or professional income not requiring an audit to August 31 from July 31.