Online or offline - which tax filing process should you follow

In the digital age, its now possible for individuals to e-file their tax returns online. However, the offline option of physical filing continues to be popular. Over time, it is expected that more people will try out e-filing. Here we do a quick review of the respective processes involved in online and offline filing of tax returns.

A trader makes calculations on the floor inside Santiago's Stock Exchange October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/Files

Online – e-filing of tax returns

If you want to file your returns electronically, you have 2 options:

Option 1 – You can use online tax filing portals for preparation and filing of your tax return

Option 2 – You can e-file your tax return on Income Tax Department’s website after preparing it on your own using the software utility provided on the department’s site.

In each of the above options, your return will be electronically sent to the tax department. However, you still need to sign your tax return. If you have a digital signature, you can use this to electronically sign your return.

However, if you don’t have a digital signature, you will need to print out your ITR-V form. An ITR-V is an acknowledgement generated on filing your return. Print this document and sign it. Then send this hard copy of your ITR-V to the Central Processing Cell of Income Tax Department in Bengaluru within 120 days through ordinary post.

Offline – physical filing of tax returns

There is no danger or bias in filing online returns. However, if you are still old fashioned and slow to join the digital age, then you can choose to file your returns in physical form.

For physical filing you will have to prepare your tax return using the relevant form either on your own or through the help of a Chartered Accountant. Once your return is ready and signed by you, you will need to submit this to the local Income Tax Office.

Some things to remember

Here are some things for you to keep in mind:

• Whether it is electronic filing or physical filing, under the new procedure, individuals do not have to attach any documents or enclosures with the return of income

• The medium of filing has no bearing on whether the tax authorities will scrutinize your tax return and tax affairs. It makes no difference to the tax department whether you e-file or file physically

• If you are due a refund, you are not going to get it any faster if you file in one way or another.

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