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Tax return preparers get off to shaky start
July, 31st 2007

The government's much-touted scheme to certify Tax Return Preparers (TRPs) to feed a growing demand from taxpayers and assesses has got off to a shaky start in its first year. More than 3,700 TRPs trained for free by the government are still finding their feet.

In some cases, the trained TRPs are reluctant to shed their day jobs, while in others, they are still learning the nitty-gritty, though officially qualified.

Tax consultants and chartered accountants who are rivals to the TRPs in general feel that TRPs are not yet competent enough to guide their clients.

"I have my own doubts, we have lots of graduates who work with us and help in our work, but they make so many mistakes," said Anupama Aggarwal, a Delhi-based CA.

But R. Prasad, a member of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) says, "CAs do not like TRPs as they are in competition!"

That may be true, but it is also fact that tax preparers, who are graduates trained by private firm NIIT Ltd to help salaried individuals and Hindu undivided families may be heading for more work than they bargained for.

The TRPs have been essentially trained to cover salary incomes, income from house property and capital gains arising from sale of securities or property.

We are trained on Saral 2D (form). And now these new forms, especially the one for business incomes, is extremely confusing, said Alok Kumar, a Delhi-based TRP.

Amit Kumar, another Delhi-based TRP, said, We are new in the field. The nine-day course is too short to understand income tax. We should be made to sit after July 31 with the income tax department to understand our problems and clarify our doubts.

Suman Khandelwal, a housewife who undertook the training for TRPs in Borivili, Mumbai, says, Self study is indeed required as a nine-day training is not sufficient to understand all the aspects of tax.

A number of TRPs have not taken their jobs seriously as they think that the remuneration of Rs 250 per return filed is a pittance. The serpentine queues in the I-T department offices are also a deterrent.

The I-T Department pays TRPs three percent, two percent, and one percent of the tax paid by a new assessee in the first, second and third year, respectively. From old assesses they are allowed to charge Rs 250 per return to be filed.

The TRPs were trained for free. Prasad feels if they had been charged partially, they would not have let the training go waste.

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