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File income tax returns this year with a helmet on

Contrary to many promises and huge expectations, the Modi Govt. is proving to be far worse than the previous Govt., at least as far as the tax terrorism is concerned.

You will be absolutely shocked to see the latest Income Tax Returns Forms issued by the IT Department for the Assessment Year 2015-16.

The days of 'Saral' anyway ended during the UPA 2 regime. But the new IT Return Forms make life really hell for the 'ordinary and honest' taxpayers. For those who know how to 'dodge' the taxes, such 'forms' are hardly a threat.

So what new terrors does the new IT Return Form hold?

Share information for ALL your bank accounts
In your IT Return this year, you have to disclose all your bank accounts viz. existing, newly opened and closed during 2014-15. The details to be furnished include name of the bank, account number, IFSC Code, name(s) of joint account holders and the account balance as on March 31st.

Disclose all your foreign travels
If you have travelled abroad... whether for official purposes or on personal trips... you have to provide various details of all such visits. This includes information such as your passport number, where it was issued, the countries you visited during 2014-15, number of such visits and the expenses incurred from own sources on such travels.

Report additional details on foreign assets
Last year the Income Tax Department had added an Annexure to the IT Return Form where you had to provide information about your various foreign assets such as bank accounts, immovable property, financial interest, other investments, signing authority and trusts created outside India.

While you still have to disclose these foreign 'assets', this year
- the list of details to be provided under each category has been expanded extensively
- you have to also provide the beneficial interest in such assets
- and you have to additionally provide extensive details of your foreign 'income'.

Utilization of Capital Gains Account Scheme
Be prepared to furnish the details of the amounts utilized, if any, from the Capital Gains Account Scheme during 2014-15 and the unutilized amount remaining in the said Account.

Break-up of Capital Gains in Computation of Total Income
Till last year, under Computation of Total Income, you had to mention only the gross amounts under short term and long term capital gains. This year you will have to give a break up of 
- short term capital gains separately for tax rate at 15%, 30% and applicable rate
- long term capital gains separately for tax rate at 10% and 20% 

More details about the agricultural income
As regards agricultural income, till last year you had to just disclose the 'net agricultural income'. This year you need to also provide the workings i.e. Gross Agricultural Receipts less expenditure incurred on agriculture less adjustment of unabsorbed agricultural loss. 

This is nothing but pure harassment. You and your CA will surely go mad in filling up the Form this year. In frustration, you will either tear your hair or bang your head against the wall... hence my warning to wear a helmet while filing your IT returns.

And the result... zilch!

If the Govt. thinks that such disclosures will curb the menace of black money, they are sadly mistaken. It is like asking people to submit a form giving details of bribery, frauds, thefts, scams, etc. committed by them during the year. Will anyone disclose such information? Naturally, those who have something to hide will take adequate measures to see that it remains hidden.

On a positive note...
Thankfully, due to the immediate hue and cry, the Govt. is considering dilution of some of these "draconian" provisions.

There is just one positive feature in this horrifying drama. As you would be aware, even though you file your IT Return online, you still have to send a duly-signed "physical" copy of the Acknowledgement (ITR-V) by post to the Income Tax Department's Bengaluru Office (in case you don't possess a digital signature). 

This is a needless hassle and there have been many cases of omission, non-receipt and misplacement. Henceforth, you have to provide your Aadhar card No. in the IT Return. This would be used for verifying the e-returns through a One Time Password (OTP). After this authentication you won't have to send the ITR-V Acknowledgement.

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