September 13 , 2013
As far as numbers indicate, e-filing income tax return is catching up and the days when it becomes the preferred mode over paper filing may not be far. However unless digital signature is used, e-filing still entails the cumbersome physical procedures of printing ITR V, signing and mailing to I-T office for verification. Using digital signature makes the process completely online.
What is a digital signature?
Similar to a handwritten signature a digital signature provides authentication of electronic documents. Digital signature can be created through one of the agencies approved by the Information Technology ministry of the government. Of the different classes of digital signatures available, for efiling, class 2 or class 3 signatures are accepted. If you have one created for some other purpose, you can use it for e-filing returns.
Once created, a digital signature certificate is valid for one or two years after which it has to be renewed.
Who needs to use digital signature in e-filing
Individuals and HUFs whose income is to be audited must mandatorily use digital signature while filing returns online. Currently professionals and other individuals doing business with turnover of Rs 25 lakhs or more should get their books of account audited. Such people need to e-file income tax returns using digital certificate.
How you can create your digital signature
Certification agencies issue digital signature for a fee ranging from Rs 750 to Rs 2,000. Presently these are the approved certification agencies for issuing digital signatures- MTNL Trustline, TCS, IDBRT, SafeScrypt, nCODE Solutions, NIC and e-Mudhra.
To buy one you need to send identity proof, address proof, and photograph along with application by post. DSC will be issued in 1-2 days once application is received. Renewal charge is usually same as fresh issuing charge.
Electronic signature could replace digital signature in e-filing
Having a digital signature is a costly affair; very few taxpayers who file electronically would care to have one. According to some sources, the income tax department is set to introduce and implement electronic signature for all e-filers who have filed returns before. It would be issued by the department free of cost.
In electronic signature, on providing information matching with previous year's tax returns a Personal Identification Number (PIN) will be generated and sent to the taxpayer's email id and mobile number. This PIN will work as electronic signature for filing return. Of course, for such a facility, I-T department would have to foolproof its infrastructure security.