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Indian Tax Return Filing AY 2008-09 – An experience

Welcome back to the part 2 of the tax filing saga….

Enthused by the experience of the previous year, I resolved that this year will also be an online filing notwithstanding the non-recipt of my tax refunds.. After all, if techie guys like me do not support such initiatives, I wonder whether the aam janata will have any such faith it it.. So here we go again..

This year, it was different. The IT website did away with the all the confusing pdf forms.. Whew!! What a relief.. In its place, there were tax returns softwares which were basically Microsoft excel files. I must congratulate the ITO on the macro-enabled regimented excel files which were very easy to navigate. There were like 8-10 sheets in the ITR-2 and each sheet had a toolbox which had navigation to-fro, and also validate the sheet.. The validation function basically is a checklist type business rule processing which checks filling of manadatory fields. Fields are clearly colour coded for entry/non-entry with very informative tool-tips..Instructions like last year left a lot more to be desired though it prvided at least 80 percent guidance.

SO got all the info and filled in the details.. checked the validation.. and lo the XML was generated in a jiffy of an instant. Wait a minute.. You have a minus balance taxes to pay !!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh! More pains and cash flying out from my already depleted bank balance..

OK.. we head to the TIN site which now does online e-tax payments.. Process is simple, click the link, select the bank and challan, fill in the personal details, click proceed and you head to the netbaking site of your bank.. a login and confirmative OK.. you are done with the payment.. Insert the challan details on the excel sheet.. and validate everything, ensure zero balance and you are all set.. XML generated and off we head to the IT website…

On the IT website, the look and feel and comments raised in my earlier post stands true.. Some guys just don’t get it.. One of my 2-3 year old experienced developpers can do a much better job with the screens..

Ok.. that beside, I login with my PAN ID and this time the upload xml screen is simple.. One textbox for the xml file upload and a checkbox with the digitial signature option. Of course, I am not the one to spend 1000 bucks for a digital ID which will serve no known purpose elsewhere.. A simple click and your return is filed and ITR-V ( Acknowledgement) is now generated..

Easy.. isn’t it.. And guess what.. I paid my taxes at 0010 hrs on 26 July and filed my returns online at 0025 hrs .. a little past midnight !!!!!!! DONE. I shall share my this year’s experience at the ITO in a few days after I go to dump the acknowledgement at the ITO..

So whats the learnings from the two years of online filing experience

  1. It has gotten very simple these days.. with a little effort and reduced fear of the internet, any lay person can do it.
  2. The tax returns software has become very user friendly eliminating painful gaffes noticed last year.. That’s wonderful and in the right direction.
  3. Online tax payment…. fantastic.. no more standing at bank counters and wasting paper,ink,time..
  4. It took me more time to collect the data on my credit card payments and share dabblings and to do the math on gains-losses. Filing the Form 16 was pretty similar to last year.. The deductions and exemptions still required some investment in reading.
  5. the whole process from downloading the form-paying taxes – uploading returns, can be done in 2 hours straight…

Some kind words and feedback for those behind the scenes at the IT Dept who have to do this thankless job

  1. Fantastic initiative. Keep it up and keep working hard to improve it.
  2. Information disconnects – The Instruction document has errors ( read the taxes,sucharge,cess section), and references to the sections can have website links for instant clarity.
  3. Website needs to have better user friendly interface to link the IT rules, tax payments, filing options.
  4. Excel based returns software – a great idea.. develop more on it..
  5. Explore the option of the IT/ NIC to issue digital ID based upon the PAN ID. Since the dept has alll the necessary data and NIC has got the infrastructure, the id generated can probably be used everywhere, shares trading, banks etc.. You can probably charge a nominal amount for this.
  6. Consider giving a deduction for encouraging creation of digital ID.
  7. Please tell us how we can check our refunds and who the hell is to be contacted for manual follow ups.
  8. The Assessing Officer section should be clearly provided in the Online section. Not everybody is a super tax practioner freak to understand the maze opf information provided under field offices section.

All in all it has been quite satifying to have participated in this exercise and wish some of my feedback will be implemented.. Adios till next year.. part 3..

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