Filing income tax returns: Here’s how to avoid being labelled a tax evader

The income-tax department on Wednesday warned salaried-class taxpayers against using illegal means while filing their returns, stating that violators would be prosecuted

Income tax department asks 10 PSU firms to pay more tax

Filing income-tax returns (ITRs)? Take note: Those who furnish incorrect information while filing ITRs will be reported to their employers and punished under the law, the Income Tax Department on Wednesday warned salaried-class taxpayers. The I-T department’s Central Processing Centre (CPC), which receives and processes ITRs, in Bengaluru, has issued a “cautionary advisory” warning taxpayers that they should not “fall prey” to tax advisors or planners who help them prepare wrong claims to get tax benefits.

The I-T department’s warning comes after its investigation wing in January unearthed a racket by employees of information technology companies based out of Bengaluru who werre allegedly helped by a tax advisor to get fraudulent tax refunds. Do you think this is a small matter? Think again. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently registered a criminal case to probe this nexus.

The latest ITR-1 form, largely used by the salaried class of taxpayers, has been activated on the official e-filing portal of the income-tax department.

Here are the top 10 things that you need to know before filing your income-tax returns:

1) Don’t give wrong info in your ITRs: The Income Tax Department on Wednesday warned salaried-class taxpayers against using illegal means while filing their returns, stating that violators will be prosecuted and their employers will be intimated to take action against them.

2) No under-reporting of income or inflated claims: What ‘illegal means’ is the I-T department referring to? The warning refers to under-reporting of income or “inflating” of deductions.

Calling it a “cautionary advisory” on reports of tax evasion by under-reporting of income or inflating deductions or exemptions by salaried taxpayers, the I-T department said such attempts “aided and abetted by unscrupulous intermediaries have been noted with concern”.

3) Wrong claims to be seen as tax evasion: What action will the I-T department take if it detects such wrong information in your ITR? The taxman has warned that wrong claims will be treated as cases of tax evasion. Such offences are punishable under various penal and prosecution provisions of the Income Tax Act, it said.

The one-page advisory added that if the department notices any fraudulent claims in the ITRs, such claims “may be punishable under provisions of the IT Act and this may also delay issuance of their refunds”.

“Taxpayers, are, therefore strictly advised not to fall prey to false promises or mis-advice by unscrupulous intermediaries and submit wrong claims in their ITRs, which would be treated as cases of tax evasion,” said the advisory.

4) This advisory applies to government employees as well: In case government or public sector undertaking employees make wrong claims and are caught, the I-T department will inform the vigilance division of their place of employment. Subsequently. the vigilance division will take action under conduct rules.

5) Extensive risk analysis system to catch wrongdoers: How will the taxman catch you if you file wrong information in your ITR? The advisory added that the I-T department possesses an “extensive risk analysis system”. This is an automated system that has no human interface. It identifies persons who are non-compliant and aim to subvert the trust based-system “envisioned” while processing of ITRs at the CPC. “In all such cases of high risk, the department may examine and verify the details submitted by taxpayers in their ITR subsequent to the processing of returns,” it said.

6) Tax advisors and planners can be punished, too: The I-T department also asked tax planners and advisors to “confine their advice to taxpayers within the four corners of the IT Act” and warned that the violators will be prosecuted and such instances will also be referred to enforcement agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for criminal prosecution.

7) ITR-1 forms available now: The latest ITR-1 form that is largely used by the salaried-class of taxpayers is now available on the official e-filing portal of the Income Tax Department. The single ITR form, notified by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on April 5, has been put on its website, https://www.incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in, on Monday.

Click here to read → Filing Income tax returns

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E-wallets to the rescue: How to turn credit card money into hard cash

And it is free if done through e-wallets. But wallet companies can block repeat offenders

MasterCard credit cards are seen in this illustrative photograph

A few weeks earlier, Paytm had started charging its customers a two per cent fee for adding money to the wallet using their credit cards. However, the mobile wallet company withdrew the fee after a week, saying it would cause inconvenience to a large section of their customers.

So, how does one transfer credit card money into a bank account via an e-wallet? The mechanism is quite simple. A user sends money to the wallet through his credit card, say Rs 15,000. Well-established mobile wallets such as Paytm, MobiKwik and FreeCharge allow funds in the wallet to be sent to any bank account. All the person has to do is enter his account number and the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) code. He can send the entire Rs 15,000 to any bank account he wishes to.

Most wallet companies don’t allow transfer of funds immediately. One can send the money to a bank account only after 48 hours. The best part: There are no charges on deposit or on withdrawal of money from the wallet. The wallet provider bears the cost.

It’s a smart way to get a hassle-free loan. An individual does not need to fill up an application form, share documents, wait for the approval, and so on. There’s no fear of rejection because of a low credit score. It can also be at zero cost if the person pays back the issuer before the due date. To many, it may look line an easy credit line, but it’s not.

A few do it to earn points on their credit card without actually spending on anything. But banks have to report to the income-tax

(I-T) department all users who spend over Rs 2 lakh on their credit cards annually. If your income doesn’t justify such spending, the tax authorities could call you to explain the source of money.

Wallets players are watching: Mobile wallet companies absorb the transaction cost levied by banks, as they are focusing on acquiring new customers and on making their services popular. They want users to transact using their wallets and not use it as a medium to rotate money. They have started analysing the spending patterns of users and blocking those who are using their wallets for “unintended purposes”.

“We use algorithms, machine learning and other technologies to understand the spending patterns of users. The technology platform gets smarter every day. Narrowing down on users who are rotating money and blocking them is not difficult,” says Daman Soni, vice-president (growth), MobiKwik. He further explains that when the company studied spending patterns, it realised that many users who added money from their credit card to their wallet and then transferred the funds to their bank account were first-timers trying to understand how the platform works.

Deepak Abbot, senior vice-president at Paytm, says the company constantly monitors all such activities and based on its algorithm restricts such behaviour. “We have several parameters to analyse the behaviour of such customers,” says Abbot.

Limits are low: Wallet accounts with limited Know Your Customer (KYC) have a transaction limit of just Rs 20,000. Only a few individuals would genuinely need such little amounts of cash. Even then they can swipe their credit cards at most places. Also, the cash is not instantly transferred from the wallet to the bank account. It takes around three working days and sometimes more. Accounts that are fully KYC compliant can store up to Rs 1 lakh. (readmore…)