Wednesday, 16 July, 2008

Filing taxes? 20 FAQs answered

Here are answers to twenty questions that crop up frequently in the taxpayer's mind:

1. Heard of New Year. What are financial year, previous year and assessment year?

A financial year (FY) is a period of 12 months commencing on 1 April of a year and ending on 31 March the next year. An assessment year is the year immediately following an FY.

For the purpose of calculating income tax, FY is the period during which the income has been earned. The income earned in a FY is assessed in the following year, that is, the assessment year.

For example, income earned in FY 2007-08 (1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008) will be assessed for tax in the year 2008-09. The year preceding the assessment year is the previous year.

2. What if I have not received my Form 16?

Employers are supposed to hand over Form 16 within 30 days of the end of a financial year, that is, by 30 April. Ask your employer to issue Form 16 immediately so that you don't miss the 31 July deadline for filing return for salaried employees.

If you think that your employer might not issue the form in time, you can write a registered letter to him on the issue and send a copy of this to your assessing officer. The employer can be penalised for not issuing the form in time.

If no tax was deducted at source, you can ask your employer for a salary certificate on his letterhead stating your salary during the financial year. This certificate can be used to file a return.

3. Can I use my investment in ELSS this year to reduce last year�s tax liability?

No. But if you had not claimed any deductions in your previous year�s return, you may file a revised return to claim a refund, if eligible. However, fresh investments would not be eligible for deductions from last year's income.

4. Taxes get deducted from my salary every month. Do I need to file income tax return?

Yes. Filing of tax is compulsory for every person whose gross total income, that is, the income under the five heads before allowing for any deduction such as insurance premium, exceeds the basic exemption limit. For financial year 2007-08 (assessment year 2008-09), this exemption limit was Rs 145,000 for women below the age of 65, Rs 195,000 for persons above 65, and Rs 110,000 for any other individual.

Every person falling in the tax bracket should file a return, even if his tax liabilities have been taken care of by the employer through tax deducted at source.

Persons whose salaries have been subjected to TDS are also required to file return because they may have earned from sources other than salary.

5. I have earned under two heads�salary and capital gains. Which form should I use to file my return? How will my tax be assessed?

As an individual assessee, if you have earned income from capital gains in addition to your salary, you will have to file your return in form ITR-2. For taxation, you will have to first segregate capital gains into short-term and long-term.

Any gain from selling shares held for more than a year is termed long-term. Gain from sale of shares held for a year or less is called short-term. If you have paid the securities transaction tax on all share trading, LTCG will be exempt from tax and STCG will be taxed at 10 per cent for FY 2007-08.

Your gross tax outlay will depend on your salary income, income from capital gains, income from other sources like interest on bank deposits, and the deductions you are entitled to.

6. I was in two jobs. How should I file return?

The aggregated income from both your employers will be considered while calculating your tax. Ideally, both companies should give you Form 16 for salary earned during the relevant period. Try to get a salary certificate from your previous employer if you cannot get Form 16 from him. Submit this estimate and a declaration in Form 12B to your current employer who will then incorporate these details in the Form 16 that he issues.

7. What if I miss the deadline of July 31?

If there are no balance taxes to be paid, no interest or penalty will be levied if you file your return before 31 March 2009. However, there is a penalty of Rs 5,000 if you fail to file by that date. In case there are tax arrears, a penalty of 1 per cent per month will be charged as interest on the taxes due.

8. I took up a job in Bengaluru recently. My IT return was filed in Delhi till now. Where should I file it now?

You can file your IT return either in the city you are residing in at present, or in the city where your office is located. Since you have joined a company based in Bengaluru and also shifted your residence there, you will be required to file your return at Bengaluru.

You should write a letter about the change of your address to your current assessing officer and mark a copy of the same to your assessing officer in Delhi. You should also write to the IT Department to get your address changed in its PAN records.

It would be best if you enclose a copy of your previous year's return while filing your return at Bengaluru. This will serve as a ready reference for your current assessing officer.

9. I have misplaced my insurance receipt. Is it necessary to attach it and other relevant documents with the tax return?

No attachments are needed with the current ITR forms as the forms themselves capture most of the required information. You don't even need to attach the computation sheet with the form. After you submit the form, the IT department cross-references the TDS details using Oltas (Online Tax Accounting System). However, make sure to carry the photocopies of all the relevant documents to the income tax office.

10. Last minute planning can hurt. How do I prepare myself for next year?

This financial year (2008-09) would be better than the previous one as Budget 2008 has already brought a minimum of Rs 4,000 as tax savings for all the taxpayers. There is a gamut of instruments that can be used to avail deductions under Section 80C.

The mix taken usually depends on the safety, liquidity and term of the various instruments. However, most taxpayers generally forget to factor in whether the income generated by the instrument is subject to tax. It is at the fag end of the financial year that most salaried employees wake up to the need to save taxes through investments.

And in this last minute commotion and confusion, a lot investment happens in assets that are low on return, high on risk, or unsuited to the long-term financial objectives of the investor. As in life, it is always better to be an early riser in tax planning too and begin right at the dawn of a financial year, in April.

A deduction of up to Rs 100,000 is allowed from income every year on specified investments, expenses or payments.

Among these are bank deposits with a minimum period of five years, life insurance premiums, Employees' Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund, repayment of the principal amount on housing loans, tuition fees, National Savings Certificate and equity-linked saving schemes. Link tax saving investments to long-term goals. Gauge Section 80C instruments as tax savers and wealth creators by looking at their post-tax return.

11. Where do I file my return?

The filing process has been centralised, so you can file your return anywhere in the country, at IT offices and even post offices. If a person has relocated, he just needs to intimate the change of address and file his return at the new location. Filing can also be done through the Internet. The help of authorised intermediaries can also be taken.

12. TDS is nil on my income. Do I have to file return?

You may skip filing return if your taxable income was below the exempted limit. However, if your gross total income exceeds the basic exemption limit, then you have to file a tax return even if no tax was deducted at source.

13. I do not have enough money to pay off my tax dues. What is the best way out? Should I sell off some of my equity investments?

A tax amount may be due to the government after you factor in the income from various sources like salary and capital gains. To settle this due, you may seek a loan from friends or relatives or raise a personal loan from a bank. If that does not work out, you may sell some of your low-yielding shares or mutual funds.

If that does not suffice, you can use your credit card to raise funds. Arrange for the funds in the quickest possible time and try to pay off any debt you run while raising the funds as soon as possible.

14. I bought shares worth Rs 1.25 lakh last year. Do I have to disclose that and other transactions?

Certain disclosures are mandatory while filing an income tax return. Among these are investments above a specified amount in bank deposits, mutual funds, shares and property in the financial year for which the return is being filed, 2007-08 in this case. The cut-off amount of investment from where disclosure should be made is: Rs 100,000 or more for shares, Rs 200,000 for credit card payments, up to Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) for deposits in one bank during the year, Rs 200,000 for mutual funds, Rs 500,000 or more for bonds or debentures issued by a company, Rs 5 lakh or more for RBI bonds and Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) or more for the purchase or from the sale of immovable property.

15. My wife earns Rs 10,000 per month from part-time coaching classes at an institute. Is she required to declare her income and file tax return?

For FY 2007-08, the basic exemption limit for not filing return for females is Rs 145,000 per annum. Your wife is earning Rs 120,000 per annum, which is below the taxable limit.

Therefore, it is not mandatory for her to file her income tax return at this stage. The exemption limit has been increased to Rs 180,000 per year from FY 2008-09. Filing of return will be required once her income crosses this limit. Also, she will need a PAN card to file returns then.

16. I incurred losses last year while trading in shares. Can gains from other sources set these off?

Short-term capital losses can be set off against long-term (LTCG) or short-term capital gains (STCG), but long-term capital losses can only be set off against LTCG. Loss from trading in shares cannot, however, be set off against gains from 'other incomes'. A loss that is not wholly set off in the financial year in which it is incurred can be carried forward to eight succeeding assessment years.

17. I don't have a PAN card. How do I file my return?

The Permanent Account Number (PAN) is a compulsory entry in the tax return form. If you have lost the card and forgotten the number too, get your PAN number and also a new copy of your card by giving your personal information to the Income Tax Department.

The tax return form needs only the number, so you can file return if you get that in time. If you have not obtained a PAN card till now, you should apply for one. Act fast as the last date for filing returns is very close.

18. My minor child is earning an income. Should I file a separate return on her behalf?

It depends on the source of income. In case the child has earned income using her talent, it will be assessed in her hands and you will have to file return as the guardian of the child. However, if the resources from where income has arisen belong to you, it will be clubbed with your income.

19. I am a salaried employee. I don't know whether I am liable to pay advance tax. If I am, is there a penalty if I don't pay?

Payment of tax in advance on the income of the current financial year is compulsory for every person liable to pay tax in India. However, there is no need to pay advance tax if the total tax payable for the year is less than Rs 5,000 or if the employer has deducted tax from the salary as TDS. Non-payment or short payment of advance tax will attract penal interest.

20. My brother is abroad and will return after 31 July. How can he file his return?

If your brother had left India without signing on the ITR form, offline filing of return is not possible. The only way for him to file his return in that case is to log on to a computer and let technology work for him. He can do this from anywhere in the world. He will need to use his digital signature.