Treatment of Defective income tax returns

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Once you
file your income tax return, it is checked, assessed and processed by the
income tax department. It matches the information that the assessee
provides—income from different sources, tax deducted at source, self-assessment
tax paid, among others—with data available to the department, and then
intimates the assessee accordingly. If the information provided by an assessee
in her return matches with what the tax department has, a final intimation is
sent (under Section 143(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1961). It contains details of
return filed by the assessee and the information available with the tax
authority. But if there is a mistake or some information is missing, you may
get a notification, which would be under Section 139(9) of the Act. This means
that the return filed is defective.


Here’s
what a defective return means and what an assessee should do in case she
receives such intimation.
WHEN IS A
RETURN DEFECTIVE?
An income
tax return will be considered defective if you provide incomplete details. For
instance, not providing Permanent Account Number (PAN) as per records, employer
details, income details or tax paid.
The
return may also be considered defective if tax along with interest has not been
paid before filing the return. Tax challan number and other details should be
filled properly. Do remember not to leave any column or row blank in the
return. Either write “not applicable (NA)” or “Nil” as relevant.
WHAT
SHOULD YOU DO?
If you
receive communication regarding your return being defective, you need to
respond or file a revised return within 15 days of receiving such intimation.
Do remember to mention the date of receipt when filing the revised return apart
from correcting the information as indicated in the notice.
Once you
file a revised return, it will be treated as the original return, but no new
acknowledgement would be generated for it.
However,
if an assessee is unable to file a rectified return within the stipulated time,
she can seek an extension from the assessing officer (AO). If the mistake is
not rectified within 15 days, or within the extended period, or before the
assessment is made, the AO will treat the income-tax return as invalid. This is
the same as not filing a return at all. In such cases, the benefits of
exemption, deduction or carry forward of losses cannot be claimed as the return
is deemed to have not been filed.

Once
you file your tax return, keep a track of the notices and emails that the
income tax department sends. Missing them or not responding to them as required
may lead to penalties and litigation. If needed, take help of experts to
respond to the notices within the time allotted. A defective return will mean
that you have not filed any return that year.
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