July 31 is usually the last date for filing your income tax returns. This year, the deadline was extended to August 5 to accommodate last-minute rush and server problems faced by online filers. If you have missed this deadline as well, what are the implications? What happens when you don't file your returns on time, or, at all?
FILING AFTER AUGUST 5
You have time to file your returns for the same assessment year until March 31, 2018. According to the Income Tax Act, 1961, one can file belated returns anytime in the next one year. However, you miss out on some of the benefits available to tax assesses filing on time. There are penalties and interest on tax that has not been paid. Filing returns on time entitle you to earn interest on Tax Deducted At Source (TDS) from April 1, 2017. On missing the deadline, you would get interest on TDS from the delayed date of filing.
BELATED RETURNS VERSUS NORMAL RETURNS FILING
The good news is that the process of belated returns filing is essentially the same as that of a normal filing, and it can be done online. You must remember to select 'return filed u/s 139 (4)' at relevant places. There are no penalties or fines attached to a belated return at the moment. However, there will be a penalty starting FY 2017-18, in the form of a late fee which can go up to Rs. 10,000 depending upon the quantum of delay. That's not all. One must note that belated returns filing compares poorly to timely filing on several fronts.
For example, consider a scenario where you have tax dues on March 31 of a financial Year. Under Section 234 A of the I-T Act, you would be liable to pay an interest of 1% per month on the unpaid tax starting August 1 of the same year. This applies only to belated returns and the interest is calculated for the period from the due date of filing the return up to the actual date of filing the return. Another limitation of belated return is that you cannot carry forward your losses to subsequent years for adjustment against future gains to save on taxes. You get this advantage on timely filing.
Another benefit of timely filing of ITR is the possibility of earning interest on tax refunds (Article 244 A, Income Tax Act 1961). Assume that you have paid an advance tax which turns out to be in excess of the actual assessment for the concerned fiscal year. You are entitled to a refund of this excess tax. You receive this tax refund along with interest on it in case of timely filing. You cannot claim this interest in case of a belated return.
If you have made mistake or missed to mention some income or investment information you can file revised return if you had filed return before the deadline in the first place. In case of belated filing, you will have to wait for a notice from the I-T Department to comply with it accordingly.
MISSING THE MARCH 31 DEADLINE?
If you miss the final deadline as well, you would receive a notice from the I-T Department asking for an explanation and proofs for the delay. If you file a late return for the next financial year and your annual income is greater than Rs. 5 lakh, you would have to pay a penalty of Rs. 5,000 if the ITR is filed before December 31, 2018 and Rs.10,000 if it is filed after.
If your income is under Rs. 5 lakh, this fine is restricted to Rs. 1,000. To sum up, it is best to be punctual with ITR filings as the I-T Department gives us sufficient time for it. Delays may invite the scrutiny of the I-T Department along with penalties.