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E-filing norms make life simpler for smaller cos
October, 12th 2006
The way in which the countrys tax payers file their returns is set to undergo a major change.To start with, domestic corporates will soon be filing their tax returns electronically by October 31 without any paper like their peers abroad. They no longer need fret about attaching piles of documents such as a tax audit report or tax deducted at source certificates while filing their returns electronically. E-filing, which is now mandatory for firms but voluntary for other classes of tax payers, will ensure that their interaction with the taxman will be reduced considerably. More importantly, as the western world has found out filing tax returns electronically could mean securing tax data or the tax history. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Wednesday issued a circular which serves as a guidance note for corporate tax payers. Firms need not attach audit reports along with their tax return barring those with an annual turnover of over Rs 40 lakh. This segment of taxpayers would need to have audit reports, certified by a chartered accountant before the deadline for filing their returns. The tax payer would, however, have to keep these audit reports and produce them when the tax authorities carry out an assessment of income. In the new regime, the tax department will also allow credit for tax deducted at source and tax collected at source also while processing returns. The tax payer would need to keep these certificates instead of passing it on to the taxman. However, the only exception is on the transfer pricing report. Indian firms entering into global transactions have to get a report from a chartered accountant or an accountant on the value of such transactions. They would also need to outline the method used to justify the arms length price. The transfer pricing report has to be furnished along with the returns. In the US, the switchover to e-filing has led to 72m tax returns being filed electronically without any paper in 06 with 20m being filed from home computers, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Over there, large and mid-size corporations are required to file their returns electronically. There is also an individual e-file programme for those opting to file online. Such individual online filers need to just answer some simple questions in their tax preparation software and the software does the rest. For Indian corporates also, the compliance cost of the switchover may come down. E-filing will reduce the time and effort involved in filing physical or returns in the paper form. From the perspective of the revenue department, the transition to e-filing will signal doing away with the existing practice of data entry of income tax returns in physical form. With electronic filing, they may no longer have to contend with errors in data entry. The guidelines havent left corporates happy. The CBDT has cleared some doubts. But there is a lack of clarity on how foreign companies would be able to file since they do not have permanent account numbers and forms cannot be uploaded without a permanent account number. Also on software, there are issues. It has been found to be laden with bugs, said Ravi Prakash, principal consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers. The objective behind this is laudable and some of the principal issues have been addressed. But there has to be logistic support," Salil Gupta, director, BSR and Co said. Those assesses who had filed returns earlier on old forms will have to file afresh as old forms are now invalid. These taxpayers would have to resubmit the return in new forms in accordance with the revised procedure. Also, the department would give priority to returns filed electronically while processing them. The paper return would have to tally with the e-filed return. As a tax payer-friendly measure, the circular has also given detailed instructions on how to fill forms.
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