Updated on: 6th Aug 2017

Come July and we all know that it is that time of the year to file your returns. I know a lot of people who avoid filing their returns online for fear of making mistakes and they pay money to accountants to do it for them. E-filing returns is extremely easy and also a great way to keep a tab on your money. If you have income from multiple sources (salary, land, rent, property, gold etc) - then it might be better to hire the services of a chartered accountant (clearly, you can afford to :p). An accountant is also a good bet if you are paying taxes as a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) vs. paying taxes as an individual. Also, I have no idea what filing as an HUF entails. If you do, feel free to explain it in the comments section :)

Now let us assume you are just another minion, slogging for an employer, with a few fixed deposits, paying your rent, feeling broke all the time, the usual shindig. WELCOME! You are one of us and e-filing is perfect for you! Read on to know exactly how you can go about it.

Disclaimer:

  • This document may not be suitable for absolute beginners who have never paid or filed taxes ever. I have safely assumed that one will understand some of the short forms used here. However, I am happy to elaborate further and will keep updating this doc as and when needed.
  • I am not an accountant, so what I write here is mostly from a layman's point of view. Please do not consider anything written here as final and binding in a court of law :P

Ok, so here we go

INITIAL STEPS: 

brains....need brains to file returns..
  1. If you are not sure whether you need to file your returns or not, refer to this link: https://cleartax.in/Guide/are-you-required-to-file-income-tax-return. Do bear in mind that the rules keep changing, so it is important to stay abreast with the latest financial news. Or you can just do a quick google every July to see if you are eligible for filing returns or not :P
  2. If you paid income tax in the year 2012-13, your assessment year would be 2013-14. It is confusing, but that’s just the way it is. Meh.
  3. Register on this website. It is a one time registration and the user id and password can be used for life https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/. Make sure you save the email that confirms your registration user id and password. Especially if you are the forgetful sort.
  4. And talking about being forgetful, it really helps to memorise your PAN no. You have no idea how many times you need to enter it. By-heart it off by all means!
  5. Ensure your Aadhar card is linked to your PAN number - Big Brother is watching you!
  6. Keep the following tax related documents ready before you begin the e-filing process. Go through them and understand them before starting. It may seem like Greek and Latin, but the more you acquaint yourself with stuffy financial docs, the better you get at understanding it. a.
    • Form 16 (given by your employer)
    • Form 16 or TDS from banks (for any fixed deposits or savings bank account whose interest exceeds 10k)
    • Investment proofs for 80C and 80G (Insurance, PPF, PF, Donations etc) – this is not required if it was submitted to your employer and has been processed in your Form 16. 
    • Form 26 AS – this tells you how much tax has already been deducted from you/ paid by you. Cross check with the data given on Form 16 from your employer/bank so you know how much tax you have paid over the year. 
    • Last year’s ITR 1 and ITR V. It makes it supremely easy to copy paste data from there to here. Or to just verify calculations and things. 
(Note: If there is a discrepancy between ‘Income charged under salaries’ in Form 16 and ‘Total amount paid/credited’ in Form 26 AS it is ok because TDS is calculated based on estimates (often based on 80c rebates you may plan for but not actually do). So always put the number given on Form 16 while filing returns.)

Use the IT department’s tax calculator to determine if you are eligible for a refund or if you need to pay extra taxes.

E-FILING YOUR RETURNS:

Puhleeze! Even I can e-file your returns!
  1. Visit the website https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/. You will need to enter your pan card no, login password, D.O.B and a captcha code. This website times out very quickly so make sure all documents mentioned in the section above are all with you.
  2. Ensure your computer meets the system and security requirements – these are usually explained on the e-filing website.
  3. If you are e-filing your returns for the first time, it can be a time consuming process that takes half a day. Detailed instructions given on the website on the top right corner under Help—How to e-file. Please save all documents, excel files, macros etc as these would be extremely useful when you e-file your returns the subsequent year.
  4. Salaried employees usually fill ITR1 or the Sahaj form. You file your returns using the following e-filing options:
    • By filing it directly online – via the ‘Prepare and submit online ITR’ option. This option is very quick and easy. See the steps below for filing your returns via this option.
    • By downloading forms to file your returns and then uploading it online – To do this, logout of your account, Visit the IT home page and you will see the option to download forms on the page. After filing those forms, use the ‘e-file - Upload Return

HOW TO E-FILE YOUR RETURNS DIRECTLY ONLINE:

  1. Choose the option – ‘e-File – Prepare and submit online ITR’ from the menu on top of the page (after you have logged in, - because by now, the website would have auto-logged you out at least 6 times :P)
  2. Choose the assessment year and the ITR form name:
    • If you paid taxes in the year 2012-13, your assessment year would be 2013-14. I repeat - it is confusing, but that’s just the way it is.
    • Salaried employees usually fill the ITR1 form.
  3. Do you have an e-digital signature in a .pfx file or USB token? If you have no idea what on earth that is, choose ‘no’ to digitally sign the returns.
  4. Pre-filling data from previous IT returns or other docs makes it faster to process the returns. Also refer to last year’s returns to make it easy to fill specific boxes.
  5. Based on the tax calculator (tax that should be paid) and Form 26 AS (tax that has been paid) – do you need a refund? Pay extra? Or no action? Depending on the situation, choose the following options – tax refundable, tax payable, Nil Tax balance. (this gets auto populated 2017 onwards)
  6. Bank account details:
    • 2015-16 onwards asks for bank account details. Give details of all existing banks that are active. Note: only if savings bank interest exceeds Rs. 10k a year you will be taxed on it.
    • Post demonetization, you need to also declare if any cash deposits equal to or more than 2L were made between 9 Sep and 30 Dec 2016. 
  7. After filling the form, reviewing it and clicking on submit, it is time to verify the form.

E-VERIFY YOUR RETURNS:

Yay! I filed my returns and can
kick your ass!

  1. See this help guide: https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/eFiling/Portal/StaticPDF/e-Verification_User_Manual.pdf
  2. If your gross taxable salary is else than 5L then you can e-verify using one time password option. To generate this, go to the main page, top tabs - click on e-file – generate EVC. You can also verify it using your Aadhar card OTP via phone.
  3. If more than 5L verify by linking it to your bank account. Please disable your firewall while doing so else the process does not complete.
  4. In case you choose to post a physical copy of ITR V - make sure you read the rules regarding printouts and postage. Those chaps are rather anal about it.
  5. Very important: Take a copy of both ITR 1 and ITR V. For this, go to the Main page – Top tabs - Dashboard – View returns/forms – click on acknowledgement no – and  download both the ITR V and ITR 1 forms.

OTHER USEFUL LINKS:

  1. To check for online refund status of previous years, save this link: https://tin.tin.nsdl.com/oltas/refundstatuslogin.html
  2. If you need to pay extra tax and interest thereof, calculate it here: http://finotax.com/itax/intt234.htm
  3. Use Challan ITNS 280 if you need to pay extra tax. No interest will be charged if the amount is less than 10k rupees.


(All images were googled under the 'labelled for reuse' category, which is probably why they suck)

Hope this helps! 
An edited version of this article was published on the IBM website on April 2013

15 IBMers from 12 countries for 4 weeks in Pretoria.
One of the most incredible experiences of our lives! 

The Corporate Service Corps (CSC) was launched in IBM in 2008 to help provide high-performing employees with quality leadership development, while also delivering quality problem solving for communities and organizations in emerging markets. Since its launch in 2008, the CSC has sent about 2000 participants on to more than 20 countries around the world. This makes a CSCer part of an elite group of 0.5% of IBMers, globally.
 
The CSC SA-10 team stayed in Pretoria – the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and worked on four projects:  
  1. Fair Trade in Tourism: The team had to design the architectural framework for a database tool to collect monitoring and evaluation information of tourism businesses.
  2. PEN: Help develop a business plan and strategy for the Inner City Pre-school Forum Village (who assist and support informal nursery schools in the city centre area).
  3. UN Women: Design an MIS (Management Information System) to monitor and evaluate the progress of small and medium businesses owned by women.
  4. Education: My project - We had to develop an operational model and proof of concept for a large scale, mentored mobile learning project. Our client was a government entity.   

Our team, much like the rainbow nation, was a diverse one. Different countries, backgrounds, years of experience at IBM - and only one month to get the work done (and get to know each other better). Regarding my project  - my extensive experience with learning and knowledge projects gave me a fair idea of what a learning project would encompass - or so I thought! Little did I know that the challenge posed to us was gargantuan.
 
Consider this: Unemployment is a serious problem in South Africa (we are talking 30% of the total population) and this often leads to high rates of crime. Our project's vision was to provide young, unemployed South Africans access to reading comprehension, maths and work readiness skills, via a simple mobile phone on a basic 2G network. A blended online education model was the recommended solution as we saw that it had the potential to reach a large number of learners and eventually help them get jobs. A large scale project no doubt, and if it succeeds in South Africa, chances are, it will replicate across Africa.
 
In short: One month - to educate Africa - using a mobile phone - via a basic internet connection.
Challenging enough?

While it was extremely exciting to work at the start-up phase of such a large-scale project, we also had to bear in mind what best we could deliver in a month’s time. Our clients initially expected us to plan, test and execute a pilot for this project. What we eventually promised and delivered, was an operational model as well as a list of recommendations for the pilot. All in all, it was a huge learning experience for me as I had never worked with a government client, or with IBMers who have been in the organisation for more than 25 years! 



Our schedules were hectic, but there was always time for fun! On weekends and holidays, our team visited an orphanage, interacted with the children at the IBM SA Africa Saturday School, went on a safari, played with big cat cubs, shopped at the local craft market and did the usual sightseeing. I even got my hair braided in cornrows for the very first time - that was fun! (despite the three day headache that followed!)

If I had to choose one "unforgettable" moment during my stay in South Africa, it was my visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Depicting an emotional and provocative history of the racial segregation that plagued the country for years, its powerful message “apartheid is exactly where it belongs – in a museum” had a profound effect on me. 


A common phrase you will hear from a lot of CSC participants is how their CSC experience was a "life-changing" one. I used to view this phrase with some amount of cynicism - can a month long assignment really change your life? I mean...c'mon!
 
Well, I was proved wrong. My assignment may have been short, but the experience was certainly a life-changing one. The skills I used to be (over) confident about had to take a beating when I met people who were so much better than me. I also realized that I was not so bad in areas where I had a tendency to under-estimate myself. The best part about the CSC experience was the close interaction with 14 other people from different countries - living, working, cooking, dining, partying together - and learning from each other.  At the end of the assignment, I think know I have a better insight into my personality, and a much better understanding of the world.

It has been a month since we parted ways and I still miss my SA-10 team!  I am glad we all keep in touch with each other and exchange notes every now and then.

The CSC is no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you are an IBMer and have not yet applied for it - you have a chance to do so next year. DON'T MISS IT! Smile
 (Top Row L-R) Diane, Tiffany, Dima, Osvaldo, Moses, Jakub, Elena, Keiko, Tony
(Bottom Row L-R) Julie, Jade, Alejandra, Me, Pia and Arturo 
Do you take a long time to upload excel files to databases or emails? Do you find your excel file gets heavy too quickly? Do you get shocked to see your excel file is between 10-20 mb when it should only be a few kb's?

Here is what you can do to make your excel file shed a few kilo(byte)s!
 
  1. The used range of the original spreadsheet may be greater than you think it is. To test this, go to the spreadsheet, hit CTRL+END and see where XL jumps to. If the cell it jumps to is beyond what you think is the end of your spreadsheet, then XL somehow has chosen a used range greater than what you think is used. Delete all these unused rows and columns, save, close, and re-open the workbook - the file size will reduce dramatically.
     
  2. Copying data from one file to another tends to make it very heavy, as it copies macros, formulae and blank cells. When you are copying data from one sheet to another, try to copy only relevant cells (vs a ctrl all) . If you have to copy only data and no formulae try using 'paste special - values' vs 'paste'.
     
Follow these tips to keep your excel files trim and slim, and to keep your databases light!
Published in DNA Epaper on 16 June 2011  

Respected Sir,

A very good morning to you.

Please find attached the details of the minutes for today morning's team call. Since I am new to organisation, I am having difficulty in understanding the agendas of the meeting and would like to touch base with you for more clarity. Which office are you based out of? I can arrange a team F2F as needed.

At the start of meeting, I was waiting for Mr. Min Feng to join the call, he said he was sorry for late and thank you for patient. Mr. Fosters asked how I was going, I said I was going by bus. Regarding the project, Ms. Wolf asked me to marry the projects documents. Sensing my confusion, Ms. Pat said she would grease the mocked-up skids to make the process easier. She also mentioned about an alternate plan but I could not hear her well and wished she would speak a bit more louder.

We were briefed about managing stake-holders.

They will be giving us a roadmap to deploy the tools in other Geos. I was in agreement of this, as without a map of the road we can get lost easily in other Geos.

The PM also said something about becoming firefighters by pushing the backs of unreasonable clients. Before I could clarify what he meant, he said he had a hard stop and we wrapped up the meeting. We were also told to move up the other meetings in advance for a valid preponement.

Note: All action-items are to be actioned by the actioners by the end of the week.

I have tried to keep the minutes as-is as-much as-possible. I apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.

Thank you and very warm regards,
A terribly confused Indian speaker of Global English.

A common and rather cliched belief among many people is that Indians have "too many" holidays and festivals. Perhaps this notion stems from the fact that India celebrates Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh festivals which might give one the feeling that India has "too many" festivals or holidays.

We have festivals to celebrate a new season, or a God's birthday, or to commemorate our country's freedom fighters. But what country does not celebrate festivals or have holidays for the same reasons? How different is St. Patrick's day from Guru Nanak Jayanthi? Or Memorial Day from Martyr's Day? We might take a week or two off for Dussera/Diwali, as would others for Christmas or Ramzan. We also have several non-holiday months in the year, just like other many countries. In fact, most countries have about 10-12 public holidays (source: wikipedia). Thus, if India has "too many" holidays - so does every other country in the world.

I sometimes wonder if the implication behind a statement such as "you have too many holidays" is "I work more than you do" - which is terribly rude or "I''m envious you have more holidays" which is a fallacy. I was shocked to chance upon an office blog that said "Indians have a problem of less productivity during Diwali" suggesting that taking the day/week/fortnight off for the most important festival for Hindus is a 'problem.' (In fact, several managers only give 2 days off to cope with heavy project requirements during Diwali.)

To people who make such statements, realise this, India does not have too many holidays, India has a diverse culture and ethnicity and we celebrate it through our holidays.

To Indians who hear such statements from others, share this blogpost with them :)