Income-tax e-filers declining? Number of e-returns actually went up, says CBDT

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Updated: May 06, 2019 7:51 PM

Income Tax Return E-filing: The apex body for administration of direct taxes in the country has clarified that there is no decrease in the number of efilers in the country in 2018-19 in comparison with 2017-18.

CBDT, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Income Tax Return, E Filers,CBDT has clarified that number of efilers has gone up by 19% in 2018-19.

Income Tax Return E-filing: It appears to be a classic case of misreading the crucial official statistics as some news reports claimed that the number of e-filers, or income tax assesses who file their income tax returns electronically, has decreased in FY 2018-19 in comparison with the FY 2017-18. However, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has clarified that contrary to the reports, the number of e-fliers has actually gone up by 19% during the same period.

“There have been some incorrect reports in media pertaining to reduction in numbers of Income Tax Returns (ITR) e-filed during Financial Year (FY) 2018-19 as compared to FY 2017-18. This is factually untrue, because the figures for FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19 are not directly comparable,” CBDT said in an official statement sent to Financial Express Online.

When contacted by Financial Express Online, a senior official in the Ministry of Finance refused to comment on the reasons behind the goof-up.

“All the numbers are there in the website,” said the official.

CBDT clarified that during FY 2017-18, out of a total of 6.74 crore ITRs which were filed electronically, 5.47 crore ITRs were filed for Assessment Year (AY) 2017-18 (the current year). Remaining 1.27 crore e-returns pertained to previous years AY 2016-17 (1.21 crore) and 6 lakh returns pertained to AY 2015-16 and earlier.

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In comparison with this, the number of efilers increased by 18.64%, from 5.47 crore returns filed electronically in FY 2017-18 (for the current assessment year of 2017-18) to 6.49 crore returns in FY 2018-19 (for the current assessment year of 2018-19).

“This would imply that substantially larger number of taxpayers filed their ITRs electronically in the FY 2018-19 as compared to FY 2017-18,” CBDT said in the statement.

Unlike the previous fiscal FY 2017-18 which contained 1.27 crore returns for previous assessment years, in FY 2018-19 the total number of electronically filed income returns for previous assessment years was only 14 lakh.

Explaining the real reason behind this apparent decline in number of e-filers, CBDT said that the apparent decrease in the number of ITRs filed during FY 2018-19 pertaining to earlier years was due to an amendment in Section 139 (5) of the Income-tax Act of 1961 which was carried out through Finance Act of 2017. The amended provisions that came into effect on April 1, 2018 mandated that the revised income tax returns for a fiscal year could only be filed till the end of relevant assessment year.

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This actually means that a revised income tax return for a financial year, for example FY 2018-19, to be filed electronically or otherwise, could only be filed till the next March or March 2020, not beyond that. Earlier a three-year window was available for filing the revised income tax return.

Explaining the reason behind the apparent decline of more than 6 lakh efilers, from 6.74 crore in FY 2017-18 to 6.68 crore in FY 2018-19, the CBDT said that it was only because of the amendment in the law that prohibited filing of ITRs beyond the previous year.

CBDT said the number of income tax payers those who still file paper return has declined substantially, from 9.2 lakh in AY 2017-18 to just 4.8 lakh in AY 2018-19.

“It is evident that most of the taxpayers have steadily switched to e-filing which is clear from the dwindling numbers of paper returns filed for AY 2018-19 compared to earlier years,” said the apex body for administration of direct taxes in the country.

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