It is not Saral anymore. Filing income tax returns seems to have turned more taxing in 2007, though finance ministry officials may not agree. Bureaucratically challenged taxpayers and assessees are racking their brains because of a multiplicity of forms that takes longer — with increased prospects of misunderstanding an entry or getting it wrong.
If it takes more hours to fill the forms, it takes an expert to crack that. And chartered accountants, the traditional masters of telling your story by numbers to the tax man, are getting pricier.
“Forms have become so cumbersome that any individual cannot fill up the form himself. He would definitely need the help of a professional," says Chandan Jha, a Delhi-based CA.
Until last year, CAs ordinarily charged a salaried individual anywhere between Rs 200 to 1,000 per return. Likewise, business people, who have more complex income streams, were paying Rs 5,000 to 25,000 per return.
“Chartered accountants have increased the fee by 10 to 20 per cent,” says Jha. “We are selling the time and we are charging for that time,” he adds.
Taxpayers have to choose now from forms ITR-1, ITR2, ITR-3 and ITR-4 . The new Income-tax Return Form No.1 is to be used only by individuals having salary income and interest income. All individuals having income from salary, house property, capital gains and income from other sources will be required to fill up the new ITR-2. Form No.3 should be used only by persons who are partners in a firm. ITR-4 is for individuals and HUFs (Hindu undivided families) having income from a proprietary business or profession.
Anupama Aggarwal, who is a partner with a chartered accountants firm, Peeyush Aggarwal and Company, says, “Logically, CAs should charge more as lots of labour and other information is required to be filled in.” R.Prasad, Member of Central Board of Direct Taxes says, “Where is the need to go to highly expensive CAs, when TRPs are there to file returns for just Rs 250.”
If it took 10 to 15 minutes to fill in one Saral/Form 2D till last year, it is taking a minimum of three-four hours for filling in one ITR form this year.
Some websites also offer easy tax return filing, but then, they only act like courier services. The nitty-gritty of calculations and details remain with the assesses, or the CAs. The government introduced low-cost tax return preparers (TRPs) to help tax payers this year, but they are only just taking off.