E-filing tax returns isn’t exactly online

It’s hardly a simple affair, but with a digital signature you can avoid a trip to the income tax office
MUMBAI: If you can pay your phone and electricity bills online, why can’t you do the same with your income tax returns? Well, you can. It is now possible for individuals and Hindu undivided families (HUFs) to file their tax returns online. All you need to do is log on to the e-filing site.
But don’t expect it to be a smooth affair. Filing e-returns is not as simple as the income tax department’s ads make them out to be. After logging onto the website, you have to choose the right form. And there are eight Indian Income Tax Returns (ITRs 1-8) forms to choose from. For most salaried individuals, ITR-1 will do if they don’t have any capital gains or house property.
For those who do, ITR-2 should be your pick. But that’s the easy part. Once you’ve identified the form, you have to download the relevant software. The page provides a link to find this software. You also need Acrobat Reader version 8.1 on your computer. If you do not have this version, you need to download this.
A link for downloading this software has also been provided on the website. After downloading all the software, the form needs to be filled up with the help of Form 16 (given by your employer). Most details that need to be put into ITR-1 are already available in Form 16.
Once the form has been filled up, it needs to be saved as an XML file. You don’t need to be an expert for this, and the e-filing website offers an ‘Export to XML’ button at the end of the software. Click on this to save the file as an XML file. Having saved the file, you will be directed to create a user ID and password. The user ID is actually your income tax permanent account number (PAN).
After logging in using the user ID and password, you can now click on the ‘submit return’ button available to the left of the screen. While uploading the file, you need to encrypt the file using a digital signature.
This is where the tax department can’t help you. If you don’t have a digital signature, you can still file an e-return, but you have to submit a hard copy of the completed return to your tax office within 15 days.
A digital signature ensures that no one else files your return. After you have encrypted the file, you need to upload it.