Make no mistake, if you miss the July 31 tax deadline, it’s your problem, not your chartered accountant’s (CA)

ICAI advises CAs ‘pleasure, not pressure’ in ITR rush

Make no mistake, if you miss the July 31 tax deadline, it’s your problem, not your chartered accountant’s (CA), to pore over Form 16, bills and sundry documents.

For a change, these overworked professionals immersed in numbers and Excel sheets who often have to bear the brunt of dodgy clients’ actions, may choose to take things a little easy.

They won’t pester New Delhi for extending the deadline for filing income tax returns (ITR), nor ruin their evenings with needless worry. No big deal if they receive their fees late. After all, a missed deadline is no fault of theirs – blame it on clients who fail to submit information on time, or on the government tax portal, which throws up annoying surprises.

Indeed, in an unusual message, CAs’ apex body, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), on Monday told its members that it was “not in favour of making any representation for extension of any due date.”

Such a step, the institute believes, would be counterproductive to professional interest. “With extended due date, efforts and expenses increase, fees do not increase. As a consequence, contribution reduces,” said ICAI’s direct tax committee in a note to members, many of whom struggle to upload documents on the portal. “Time for continuing education and knowledge updating and even for leisure is reduced, causing long-term adverse consequences. CAs are not required to pay (the) cost of delay and taxpayers, who are subjected to costs, their association may represent (sic).”

ICAI, however, had made repeated representations to quickly sort out any bugs in the portal so filing returns can be less agonising, said a committee member.

Tech Woes
Here’s a sample WhatsApp chat thread among CAs that he shared. “Is anyone facing issues to login TRACES?… Yes, yesterday I haven’t been able to login or file returns…Even I experienced that once after login sometimes logout is not possible even after trying for several times.. DSC not getting validated.. It’s slow, etc…”

(TRACES, or TDS Reconciliation Analysis and Correction Enabling System, is an online facility provided by the Income Tax department; DCS stands for digital signature certificate).

Some of the accounting professionals said even tax officials sometimes have a tough time in uploading data on the portal. There are more than 3.3 lakh CAs, with a little less than half of them engaged in full-time practice.

So, CAs have been simply advised by the committee to “enlighten taxpayers to provide data on time to avoid unpleasant consequences.”

The committee has once again pointed out the snags in the portal to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), apex authority under the ministry of finance. It’s then up to CBDT to decide whether there are grounds to push back the deadline.

A play on words is probably not the forte of a tribe that dabbles in numbers and spends the best years of life clearing a demanding exam. But ICAI’s advice, though direct and rudimentary, can make some difference to this gruelling trade.

“…Please discharge assignments diligently, take due representation from assessee for income computation and mandate to upload ITR. Please do not carry any pressure, work with pleasure (sic),” said the email from the committee.

“The tone is very different… I have never received such a note from the institute. It’s good… In fact, I also am happy that it has not written to the government for deadline extension,” said a senior Mumbai-based CA.

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