With electronically-filed income tax returns increasing every year and the rush on the last day slowing the income tax (I-T) department website, the last date for filing returns is being extended through the past couple of years.
For financial year 2012-13, the deadline was July 31, but was extended to August 5. While the extension brought respite to those who hadn't filed their returns, it isn't a reason to relax. Also, there are repercussions for missing the deadline.
You can file returns even today. Those with no other income (except salary) can file returns even after the deadline. The department is lenient and allows filing belated returns for the next two years. For 2012-13, you could file belated returns till March 31 2015.
However, if belated returns are not filed till March 2014 and there is no tax due, you could be charged a penalty of Rs 5,000. But in case of taxes due, you would be levied an interest (under Section 234 A) at one per cent a month, over and above the penalty.
There could be another chargeable interest component under Section 234(B). This deals with delay in depositing advance tax and charges one per cent interest a month, from April 1 2013 till the time the tax is paid. "Section 234(B) is applicable only to those who have an outstanding advance tax liability exceeding Rs 10,000. However, if one has paid 90 per cent of the outstanding advance tax liability, 234(B) is not applicable," says Kaushik Mukherjee, executive director (tax & regulatory practices), PricewaterhouseCoopers.
If you give a reason for not filing returns on time (such as an accident, hospitalisation or deputation abroad), the I-T Department might waive the fixed penalty. Rakesh Nangia, managing partner of Nangia & Co Chartered Accountants, cites a recent Delhi High Court order upholding prosecution for willful defaulters (those one don't file returns despite getting a notice from the department).
"Those filing belated returns cannot revise their returns in case of any error," says Amarpal Chadha, partner (tax and regulatory services) at Ernst & Young.
You can carry forward losses in investment (equity or mutual funds) in the relevant financial year for exemption in subsequent years only if you filed your returns by the deadline, says Nangia. Also, there is a provision to set off investment gains against losses through the next eight years. However, loss from house property and unabsorbed depreciation is an exception that can be carried forward even if you don't file returns by the deadline.
If you delay filing returns, your tax refund process could be delayed. There are chances you could get an enquiry letter from the department. You might also have to forfeit the interest on the refund pending for the period of delay in filing returns. If the refundable amount is more than 10 per cent of the total tax payable, you are entitled to a simple interest of 0.5 per cent on that amount.
Filing returns has benefits. While applying for a permanent account number, a home loan or a personal loan, income tax documents are handy. A good record could ensure quick processing of the loan and reduce hassles substantially. Also, if you want to travel abroad, these papers have to be part of the visa application.