Normally, the filing process of Income Tax Return (ITR) concludes by July end with the usual due date for filing returns of income for the assessee without audit needs is July 31 every year. However, like last year, this year also the ITR filing process is yet to gather steam due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from the pandemic, the glitches in the newly launched e-filing site are also giving additional pain to the taxpayers.
“The Income Tax website also known as the Income tax portal is an important link between the Income Tax Department and the taxpayers of the country. It facilitates filing of tax returns, different forms under the Income Tax Act and also, performing other work pertaining to tax assessments such as providing responses to Notices, checking refund status queries, rectification, grievance redressal, filing of appeal before first appellate authority (i.e.CIT-Appeal), representation through Video Conferencing, etc. The old income tax website was simple yet efficient in facilitating all the aforementioned tasks. However, the CBDT vide Press release dated May 20, 2021 announced the launch of new e-filing portal 2.0 for introducing modernisation in the taxpayer’s experience and to make it more interactive. The press release promised a host of new features of the new e-filing portal that would make the e-filing experience more convenient and user-friendly. For the purpose of migrating and transitioning from the old income tax portal to the new e-filing portal, a blackout period was announced from June 1 2021 to June 6, 2021 whereby none of the sites would be available to the taxpayers,” said Dr. Suresh Surana, Founder, RSM India.
“The taxpayers highly awaited the launch of the new e-filing portal on June 7, 2021 so that they could complete their tax related work which was pending due to the blackout period. However, since its launch, the new e-filing portal has been prone to numerous glitches. Such glitches have restricted taxpayers from carrying out not only any tax related work but also any business transaction which is subject to tax compliance. For instance, before making a foreign remittance, taxpayers have to obtain a certificate in Form 15CB from a Chartered Accountant certifying the applicability of tax withholding provisions. Since the launch of the new portal, CAs have not been able to upload any certificates on the portal. This led to limitations on foreign remittances. As a temporary measure, the department has relaxed the requirement to upload 15CB on the website and allowed CAs to give manual Form 15CBs to their clients. In place of reverting back to such manual system of Form 15CBs, the department could have alternatively allowed the taxpayers or tax representatives to use the older income tax website till the time the new portal becomes free from glitches in order to avoid hardship on the part of the taxpayers for maintenance of online as well as manual data for such remittance records,” he added.
“Since it is in the transition stage it is expected that the new web portal would gradually start functioning efficiently and would definitely add more value added and user friendly experience to the taxpayers. The Department has also arranged a meeting on June 22, 2021 to discuss the difficulties faced by the taxpayers in the new portal with Infosys (the vendor and its team). Other stakeholders including members from ICAI, auditors, consultants and taxpayers are also expected to be a part of the interaction,” said Dr. Surana.
New Income Tax Site: Ill-timed launch of heavy, data guzzling site frustrates return filers
Allow filing on the old site
Giving his opinion on allowing the old e-filing site to file the ITRs for the current Assessment Year (AY), CA Geetanshu Bhalla, Director at The Virtual Compliance said, “Yes, certainly the income-tax department should allow the taxpayers to use its old website for all income tax services till its new website is not ready to perform without glitches.” adding, “However, the possibility to allow the ITR filing seems remote because the facilities of the filing of ITR for AY 2021-22 was not enabled even on the old website till its existence nor all forms in new JSON format are issued yet.”
“Furthermore, another issue might be the pre-filled ITR data cannot be provided to the taxpayers yet as the due date of furnishing the income tax details including income, TDS and details of specified transactions by the specified person has not been passed over yet. Filing of ITR without such details is not advisable to the taxpayers unless extraordinary circumstances warrant the same,” said Bhalla.
“The department should allow the assignees to file their ITR via., an alternative mode so that they get their no-objection certificate for leaving India seamlessly,” he added.
Give the new site more time
However, expressing his confidence that the glitches on the new site would be removed soon, Gopal Bohra, Partner, NA Shah Associates said, “The new website was supposed to be fully operational by June 7, 2021, but it’s still giving teething problems to the taxpayers while accessing the website. Considering the vast taxpayer base in India, transition from existing portal to new one should have been done step by step instead of a complete overhaul in one go. It would be appropriate, if the CBDT runs the old e-filing portal parallel to the new one so that the technical bugs in the new website can be fixed based on the feedback and would also ensure that taxpayers of the country are not inconvenienced. Hopefully, through the meeting between the Finance Ministry and the Infosys team on June 22, 2021 the issues will be resolved based on the feedback of various stakeholders in this regard.”
Try the offline mode
Providing an alternative to bypass the issues on the new e-filing site, Niraj Bora, Founder, Surmount Business Advisors Private Limited said, “As we are aware that the new e-filing portal was launched on June 7, 2021 wherein many users are facing problems while filing Income tax returns due to unresolved bugs. However, this time the government has launched offline mode also, wherein users can easily fill all the requisite data and verify the same through the portal. So for the time being, users can explore the aforesaid mode, if they are facing any technical glitches due to the newly launched portal. I would like to mention that this offline mode is very time saving and user friendly too.”
“Therefore, in my opinion, there is no point in continuing the old e-filing portal along with the newly launched website for e-filing. The department is in the process of resolving the same and the portal would be available without any bugs at the earliest. Further the time limit for filing of return for AY 2020-21 has already been extended to September 30, 2021,” he said, adding, “For filing returns via offline utility, users need to download Common Offline Utility (Desktop Utility ITR 1 – 4) from download section of the new e-filing site.”