The last-minute rush of filing tax returns is over. Hounded by the 31 July deadline, most people manage to scrape through, filing their returns on time. Yet, there are some who, for one or the other reason, fail to do so. If you are among the latter and worried about breaching the law or facing a heavy penalty, don't press the panic button just yet. You can still file your returns and chances are you won't have to pay a penalty. "About 10% of the people end up filing their returns after the due date," says Mehul Sheth, a Mumbai-based chartered accountant.
Adds Sunil Talati, former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India ( ICAI)): "The return for income earned in the financial year ending on 31 March 2011 should ideally be filed by 31 July for non-business taxpayers. But if the taxpayer has missed the deadline in spite of having four months in hand, he can do so till 31 March 2013."
In such a case, the penalty to be levied would depend on the status of the tax to be paid.
If tax has been paid
If you have paid your taxes, there's little to worry because you can file the returns before 31 March 2012 without paying a penalty. "But if you push the new deadline and file the return only after 31 March 2012, the assessing officer may impose a penalty of Rs 5,000," says Sheth. This amount may depend on the discretion of the assessing officer.
If tax has not been paid
If you have not cleared the taxes, you will have to pay a penalty at the rate of 1% per month for the period after 31 July. If the tax due is more than Rs 10,000, you are supposed to pay an advance tax on your income in three tranches (see table). In such a case, the 1% penalty per month will be applicable from the period you have not paid the tranche.
If Form 16 has an error
If your employer has made an error in Form 16 and this has crept into your returns, it will have to be corrected. Says Talati: "In case a rectification is required, you should go ahead and file the return anyway. Subsequently, you can request your employer to correct the mistake, and after you receive the fresh Form 16, you can file the revised return."
Talati cautions against taking an initiative to file the return by using the correct information instead of the wrong one in Form 16. "You should not file the return using details that were missed out by the employer as the computerised system is such that if there is a mismatch, you won't get credit," he informs.
You can file the revised returns after you have convinced your employer and rectified the mistake."Don't delay filing your returns because of rectifications in Form 16 as there is a possibility that the assessing officer may not believe your claims," says Sheth.
If you don't have money to pay tax
For those who delayed filing the return because they could not afford to pay the heavy tax, borrowing and paying might be a good idea. "The rate of interest payable to the Income Tax Department is higher compared with the market rate. Besides, you should avoid being blacklisted as a late taxpayer," adds Talati. "Although the IT Department enforces similar norms for those who file their returns on time and those who delay these, it is likely to pick your returns for scrutiny if you are a habitual late filer to find out whether the delay is a bid to conceal income," says Talati.
While you have the option to file your tax returns after the due date, you must avoid doing so. This is because you could lose out on a major benefit. If you have suffered a capital loss in a particular year and want to set it off in another year, it needs to be carried forward. "However, you will not be able to claim this benefit if you have not filed the returns by 31 July," warns Sheth.