If you have not filed your income tax return (ITR) for assessment year (AY) 2018-19 or financial year (FY) 2017-18, now is the time to do so. While the last date for filing the return was 31 August 2018, the income tax department keeps the window open till the end of AY2018-19 or 31 March 2019 for you to file the return belatedly. In fact, the income tax department may have already sent you a reminder through an email or a message to file your return on time.
Remember that the ITR you file now will be considered belated because the actual deadline for filing the ITR was 31 July 2018, which was extended till 31 August 2018. If you file belated return, you will miss out on certain benefits and also have to mandatorily pay a late penalty. However, if you miss the 31 March 2019 deadline, you will not be able to file ITR for AY 2018-19 at all.
Here is what you should do to ensure you make use of this final window.
How to file
The process of filing a belated return is the same as filing a return before the due date. You need to log into your e-filing account on the department website, incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in using your user ID (which is your permanent account number or PAN), password, date of birth and captcha code. First-time users need to create an account on the e-filing website.
Once you login, choose the appropriate ITR form and fill the required information. There are seven ITR forms, out of which only four (ITR 1 to 4) are applicable to individual taxpayers. Returns filed in wrong ITR forms will be considered defective or not being filed.
Remember to clear tax dues, if any, with interest and penalty before you file your return.
Belated ITR penalty
Till last AY, the relevant assessing officer had to initiate the penalty proceedings separately for each assessee who didn’t file the ITR before the actual deadline and was filing a belated return. But from the current AY, each assessee has to pay a mandatory penalty for filing a belated return. According to Section 234F of the Income-tax Act, 1961, which was introduced through the Finance Act 2017, and is applicable from AY2018-19, if the taxpayer fails to file return of income within the due date, she shall have to pay a fee of ₹5,000 if the return is filed after the due date but before 31 December of that year and ₹10,000 if the return is furnished after 31 December. However, if the total income of the person does not exceed ₹5 lakh, the fee payable for late filing of return will be restricted to ₹1,000.
So if you are filing your return now, you will have to pay either ₹10,000 as penalty or ₹1,000.
Late filing penalty has to be paid irrespective of whether there are any tax dues or not. If there are any tax dues after the payment of advance tax, tax deducted at source (TDS) and self-assessment tax, then interest will be applicable at the rate of 1% per month on the due amount up to the date of filing the return, according to Section 234A of the Act.
Other demerits: If you are filing a belated return, you may lose the interest rate that would be due on tax refund, if any, because delay in filing ITR is considered an assessee’s mistake. Also, you will not be allowed to carry forward certain losses. For instance, business and capital losses can be carried forward for adjusted against gains in subsequent years, only if the tax return is filed within the due date.
If you don’t file
If you fail to file your return by 31 March 2019, the tax authorities may prosecute you for wilfully not furnishing ITR beyond the relevant AY, if the amount of unpaid tax (after deduction of advance tax and TDS) exceeds ₹3,000. Penalty for under-reporting of income can go up to 50% of the amount of tax due.
Also, non-filing of ITR attracts imprisonment under Section 276CC for three months to two years, along with fine. If the tax dues exceed R25 lakh, the imprisonment may extend to six months to seven years, along with fine.
Therefore, it is prudent to pay the penalty and file the return, especially if there are tax liabilities.