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Free professional help for filing returns next year
November, 07th 2006

Self-employed individuals, women, senior citizens and Hindu undivided families (HUFs) whose income-tax returns do not have to be audited will be able to use tax return preparers for filing their returns free of cost from next year. 
 
According to the Tax Return Preparers Scheme, unveiled by Finance Minister P Chidambaram today, 5,000 graduates with degrees in commerce, law, economics, mathematics, statistics or management would be trained to prepare tax returns. The scheme was announced in this years Budget. 
 
These individuals will be selected from 100 centres in 84 cities across the country and certified by the second week of February next year. 
 
The finance ministry is launching a publicity campaign for the scheme from tomorrow. Ministry officials said they planned to make the facility available free of cost to the self-employed, small businessmen, salaried employees, senior citizens and women with income of up to Rs 3 lakh per year. We want to make the scheme more popular, which is why it may be extended to all individuals and HUFs whose returns do not have to be audited, an official said. 
 
He added the scheme was expected to reduce the cost of compliance for small taxpayers. Bigger taxpayers would have to pay Rs 250 per return. 
 
The preparers would be paid 3 per cent of the tax collected for the first years return of a new tax payer, 2 per cent for the second year and 1 per cent for the third year, Chidambaram said. 
 
The return preparers will be selected through an examination and trained for nine days with the help of NIIT, which will be paid Rs 5 crore. 
 
Chidambaram said a fee of Rs 100 would be charged from each applicant along with a deposit of Rs 1,000, which would be returned after successful completion of training. The amount was being charged to ensure that only serious candidates applied, he said. 
 
Each preparer will, on completion of training, be given a certificate and an identity card bearing an identification number, which will be used to monitor their performance. Quality alerts would be sent and certificates cancelled if the performance was not up to the mark, officials said. 
 
Officials said the revenue department would prepare a database of preparers, which would be posted on the website of the income-tax department. 

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