For Ravi Anand, who works in a private company, filing his annual income tax return was a breeze this time. It took all of 15 minutes and he did not have to call his chartered accountant hundreds of times or stand in queue at the tax office.
Instead, all he did was make a call to a government-nominated tax return preparer (TRP), who visited his home and helped him fill the form, pay his tax online and file his return for him. I am very satisfied with the TRP service. It is a good step taken by the government, said Anand.
TRPs are part of a pilot programme that the income tax department launched this year to help self-employed individuals and small businessmen, salaried people, senior citizens and Hindu undivided families file returns (only returns of professionals and Hindu undivided families involving statutory audit are not dealt with by the TRPs).
The department has 3,737 trained TRPs, who can be contacted through the departments customer care service (1800118777) or the TRP website (www.trpscheme.com). At present, their services are available in 80 cities.
Ankit Goel, an aspiring chartered accountant, is one of them. He says he gets 10 calls a day and files five or six returns every day. Goel, who lives in RK Puram in south Delhi, has so far filed returns for 60-odd people and expects to file 59 more before the July 31 deadline.
Most of his assessees are elderly, salaried taxpayers and he charges them Rs 250, the fee set by the department. By the end of July, he expects to have earned a minimum of Rs 27,000.
The incentive is a little higher if the assessee is a new tax payer. The TRPs will get 3 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent of the tax paid by a new assessee as commission in the first year, second year and third year, respectively.
While addressing the first batch of TRPs in Delhi recently, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had expressed the hope that TRPs could earn a decent income of Rs 5,000 per month by getting 250 clients a year.
Though it is too early to say how many new tax payers will be roped in, going by the projection of 250 clients per TRP, the 3,737 can help about 930,000 assessees file their returns this year.
Educational institute NIIT had tied up with the income tax department to select and train 5,000 candidates to become TRPs out of the 90,000 applicants and 3,737 passed the qualifying test held this year.
The only concern is that the job is seasonal. What will we do after July? asks Sachin Arora, who expects to help 50-60 assessees file their returns by the month-end.
Chidambaram had hoped that TRPs could become neighbourhood financial advisors and earn a commission by helping insurance firms and banks sell their products. Goel confirms that this is possible. Many of our clients are happy when I advise them on where to invest to save tax. However, I have no tie-up with any financial institution or their agents, he said.