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An annual ordeal returns

A super-senior citizen’s experience in filing the annual income tax submission.

August 5, 2016 was the extended last date for the filing of income tax returns. As the date neared, some thoughts and reminiscences filled this weary head of mine.

In tax lingo, I am a super-senior citizen, which means those over 80 years of age. The last date for paying all the due taxes (advance, self-assessment and so on) and filing the return was July 31. For the majority of people like me, the main components of income are monthly pension and interest earned from deposits placed in banks, the post office and so on.

Aged people have always (here always means “24x7”) anxiety written on their faces when the time for filing of the return approaches. We get nightmares – what will happen if we don’t file by July 31, what if there are mistakes in what we submit, what to do if we get notices for filing the return late? In the case of extremely nervous persons they even get dreams of being produced in court in hand-cuffs; they wake up sweating and with a loud cry, disturbing the precious sleep of their companion.

People of my category get ready in the month of April itself, when the summer heat is still tolerable, and hope that this year the going will be easy. Such hopes are belied when we visit our banks, post office, and financial institutions to get details of pension, statement of TDS cuts (Form 16) and annual statements of interest earned on deposits. We have to visit them multiple times in the hot sun. Patience is snapping – very trying times indeed.

At last, we get the details by the end of May. We feverishly set about bringing the data on to paper or the computer. We pass this on to the person who prepares the return, usually a Chartered Accountant. I think our complaint about the strenuous exercises of legging it to banks, photocopying shops, form-sellers and so on in the blazing sun has been heard by the uperwala and we hear there is a move to change the start of the Accounting Year from April 1. Let them do it quickly and make a cool 31st December 31 or a not-so-hot September 30 as the last date for the filing of the return.

When I come to the subject of preparation of the return, I feel like digressing and recollecting what we used to do when everything was paper-work and there was no such “online” business. Small fry like me could not afford professional to help. In the month of March itself I would go a bookseller and buy a simple ‘Saral’ Form. Oh Saral, where are you gone nowadays, forsaking elderly people with fading eyesight to the mercy of the complicated ITR -2 or 5 which has so many pages in fine print (imagine how difficult it is for 80-plus person to read the fine print). I used to write every item of income, such as pension, entered in the bank pass book, credit given by bank for interest on deposits, and so on in a note book from the beginning of the financial year. By middle of April the data in the notebook would be entered in the columns of the Saral in a saral (simple) way. There was no computer or online means or looking up of 26 AS for TDS particulars. By the beginning of May, without going out in the hot sun, some sort of return will be ready.

The bank manager would at this stage be asked to give certificates of pension and interest items and TDS cuts, if any, effected by him. He would do this in no time and just one or two visits would suffice. The rest was easy and the return would be ready. We could ourselves calculate easily the tax to be paid and the balance tax will be paid at the bank counter itself by filling a challan in ink. Our job is then over, the return is filled in ink and signed. Photocopies of the bank certificates would be attached towards proof. I myself would take the signed document to the salary counters of the Income Tax Office, file it and get a receipt.

What is nowadays back-breaking job was comparatively easier to accomplish before the advent of all this e-filing business. Perhaps, people in the relatively top brackets will need e-filing. Not for super-senior citizens for whom it is not so simple and customer-friendly. They have to run to the professional people and wait in their offices and pay them fees.

Remembering so many user ids and passwords in the process of filing the return online is mind-boggling. Sometimes even tears come to the eyes of the weak and elderly while going through the process. Often the idea of giving up everything and just keeping quiet about it also occurs. But I know it is not possible for loyal citizens like us, and we have to somehow plod on. We know the platitude, “pay taxes correctly and promptly for the nations’s sake and the next generation …….”

We hope it will all hunky-dory the next year, and take some rest for now.

(The author, born in 1933, and was a Deputy Secretary with the Ministry of Railways in New Delhi, now lives in Chennai. He has written five books since 2012. E-mail: prabhakedar33@gmail.com )

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 8:03:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/An-annual-ordeal-returns/article14558806.ece

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