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Belated Return: Section 139(4) of the Income Tax Act

Updated: May 6

How to File belated return under Section 139(4) of the Income Tax Act

A belated return is a type of an income tax return which is filed after the due date. Section 139 (4) of the Income Tax Act, allows for the filing of a belated return if the return is not filed originally up to 31st July. The taxpayer can file a belated return up to 31st December of the assessment year or before the completion of the assessment, whichever is earlier.


It is essential for the taxpayer to understand the implications to file a belated return in terms of penal consequences. This article details all the compliance-related aspects of Section 139 (4), which a taxpayer must know.

 

Table of Content

 

What do you mean by Belated Return?

A belated return is an income tax return filed after the due date, typically July 31st each year, for individuals not subject to audits. If an individual fails to meet this deadline and files their return after July 31st but before December 31st, it is considered a belated return.


For individuals subject to tax audits, the deadline is September 30th. Any return filed after this date is also termed a belated return and is filed under section 139(4) of the Income Tax Act. It's important to note that filing a belated return may make you to incur penalties and additional interest on taxes owed.


Income Tax Return (ITR) filing process for past years

If the belated return deadline is missed, ITR-U can be filed in specific cases. Following the Finance Act 2021 amendment, the timeline for filing belated returns has been reduced. Starting from Assessment Year 2021-22, the belated return can be filed up to three months before the end of the relevant assessment year or before the completion of the assessment, whichever comes first.


Who can File Belated Return under Section 139(4)?

  • Individuals with taxable income exceeding the prescribed limit must file an income tax return.

  • Salaried individuals, even if taxes are fully deducted through TDS, must file if their income surpasses the taxable threshold.

  • Individuals with signing authority in foreign accounts are required to file returns.

  • Individuals subject to audit due to turnover or gross receipts exceeding the prescribed limit must file by the specified due date.

  • Individuals who have deposited an amount exceeding Rs. 1 Crore during a financial year in a current account held with a cooperative bank or a bank.

  • Individuals who have spent more than Rs. 2 Lakhs on foreign travel in the relevant year.

  • Individuals who have a total electricity bill exceeds Rs. 1 Lakhs.

  • Business owners, professionals, and companies are obligated to file income tax returns.

  • Non-resident Indians (NRIs) with income sourced in India or foreign income deemed to be received in India may need to file returns.

  •  Those seeking a refund of excess taxes paid during the financial year must file an income tax return.


In other words if someone who is supposed to file an Income Tax Return (ITR) misses the deadline, they can still file a belated return. When filing the ITR, they need to choose section 139(4).


Penalties for Filing Belated Return

Failing to submit your Income Tax Return (ITR) by the specified due date can lead to the following consequences:


1. Interest Penalty under Section 234A: 

  • Taxpayers are liable to pay simple interest at a rate of 1% per month or part thereof for delayed ITR filing under Section 234A.

  • Interest is calculated from the ITR filing due date to the actual filing date, resulting in higher interest payments for delayed submissions.


2. Late Filing Fees under Section 234F: 

  • A maximum late filing penalty of Rs. 5,000 is applicable under Section 234F.

  • If the total taxable income exceeds Rs. 5 Lakh, the penalty is Rs. 5,000.

  • For total taxable income below Rs. 5 Lakh, the penalty is Rs. 1,000.

  • No penalty is levied if the total taxable income is below Rs. 2.5 Lakhs.


What are the other Consequences of Filing a Belated Return?

Losses, like business and capital losses, cannot be carried forward and set off in the subsequent years. However, an exception is available for losses from house property that can be carried forward even if you file your returns late.


Deductions/ Exemptions Disallowed: Deductions/ exemptions u/s 10A, 10B, 80-IA, 80-IB, 80-IC, 80-ID, and 80-IE shall not be available if you delay ITR filing. These tax-saving benefits are allowed only if the ITR is filed before the original deadline. 


How to File a Belated Return: A Step-by-Step Guide 

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to file a belated return, whether due to oversight or other reasons, the process can be navigated smoothly using the Income Tax Portal. Here's a comprehensive guide on filing a belated return, both online and offline:


Online Method: To File a Belated Return

 Step 1: Log in to Your Account 

 Begin by logging in to your account on the Income Tax e-filing portal.


 Step 2: Navigate to e-File 

 Click on ‘e-File’ in the portal.

 Choose ‘Income Tax Returns.’

 Select ‘File Income Tax Return.’

Select File Income Tax Return

 Step 3: Select Relevant Assessment Year 

Choose the assessment year for which you are filing the belated return.

Select the assessment year for which you are filing the belated return.

 

Step 4: Mode of Filing 

 If filing online, proceed to Steps 5-10.

 If opting for offline filing, skip to Step 11.

Select the Mode of Filing Option

Step 5: Start New Filing 

Click on the ‘Start new filing’ button to initiate the process.

Click on Start New Filing 

 

Step 6: Select Taxpayer Status 

Choose the applicable taxpayer status based on your profile.

Select the applicable taxpayer status based on your profile

Step 7: Choose ITR Form 

Select the relevant Income Tax Return (ITR) form based on your income sources.

Select Income Tax Return (ITR) form based on your income sources

Step 8: Verify Personal Information 

Navigate to the ‘Personal Information’ section and ensure all personal details are accurate.

Verify Personal Information 

Step 9: Filing Section and 139(4) 

Scroll down to the filing section and select option 139(4) for belated return filing.

filing section and select option 139(4) for belated return filing

Step 10: Income Details and Tax Payments 

Fill in all income details under various source heads and proceed to make tax payments, if applicable.


Offline Method: To File a Belated Return

  • Download the Offline ITR Preparation Utility.

Download the Offline ITR Preparation Utility

  • Utilize the utility to prepare the ITR offline.

Utilize the utility to prepare the ITR offline
  • Upload the generated .json file and proceed to verification.

pload the generated .json file and click on proceed to verification

By following these steps, you can successfully file your belated return, ensuring compliance with tax regulations


Guidelines for Filing Missed Returns for Previous Financial Years

If you failed to file your income tax return within the initial deadline, there is still an opportunity to rectify the situation. You can file a belated return until the 31st of December of the relevant assessment year. However, if this deadline is also missed due to valid reasons, you may seek to file a condonation of delay request, requesting the income tax authorities to condone the delay.


Here's a step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

1. Condonation of Delay Request:

Request the Income Tax Commissioner or the prescribed authority for permission to file income tax returns, clearly stating the reasons for missing the deadline.

The officer may consider your request based on criteria such as the correctness and genuineness of the claim, genuine hardship, eligibility for a refund, and the inability of any other person to assess the tax under the Income Tax Act.


2. Tax Payment and Interest:

If you have not paid the tax for the relevant financial year to which the belated return pertains, make the tax payment along with applicable interest under Section 234A, 234B, or 234C. Even if you are unable to file your income tax returns, paying the tax is essential.


3. Penalties and Notices:

If taxes were paid on time, but returns were not filed, penalties under Section 271F may be imposed, with a potential penalty of up to Rs. 5,000.

Respond to any notices from the income tax department promptly through the income tax e-filing portal.


4. Legal Consequences:

Failure to file returns can lead to legal action, including notices and penalties.

In extreme cases, prosecution with a sentence of imprisonment for up to seven years may be pursued.


5. Under-Reported Income:

If there is an under-reported income, a penalty of up to 200% of the tax payable may be levied.

The assessing officer may excuse penalties if taxes with interest were paid after the deadline but under-reporting occurred.


While there are options to rectify missed ITR filings, it is advisable to file returns by the original due date to avoid complications and legal consequences. .


FAQ

1. Is it possible to file my ITR after the due date?

Yes, you can file your ITR after the due date. However, it will be considered a belated return, and you will incur a late filing fee along with interest.


2. What does the Belated Return Section refer to?

A belated return is filed under Section 139(4) of the Income Tax Act.


3. Can a belated return be amended?

Indeed, a belated return can be revised. The deadline for filing a revised belated return is 31st December of the relevant assessment year, so ensure revisions are completed before 31st December.


4. Is e-verification necessary for a Belated Return under section 139(4)?

Yes, e-verification is a mandatory step in the return filing process. It must be completed to finalize the income tax return filed under section 139(4).


5. Can I seek a tax refund through a belated return?

Certainly, you can claim a tax refund when filing a belated return under section 139(4). Pre-validation of your bank account is required for the direct crediting of the refund to your specified account on the e-filing portal.


6. Is it possible to file the belated return for the F.Y. 2022-2023 now?

The belated return for F.Y. 2022-2023 could have been filed up to 31st December 2023 or completion of assessment, whichever is earlier. Thus, the last date for filing the belated return for F.Y. 2022-2023 has been lapsed.


7. What is the time frame for filing a belated return?

 A belated return can be filed up to 3 months before the end of the relevant assessment year or the completion of the assessment, whichever comes first. For instance, for A.Y. 2023-24 (FY 2022-23), the deadline is 31st December 2023.


8. Are there penalties associated with filing a belated return?

Yes, a late fee of Rs. 5,000 is applicable under Section 234F. If the total income is less than Rs. 5 lakh, the late filing fee is reduced to Rs. 1,000. No late fee is levied if the income is below the taxable limit.


9. How many attempts can be made for e-filing after a rejection?

You can re-submit your e-filed return as many times as needed until the filing deadline. However, it is advisable to print, sign, and mail your return after three unsuccessful attempts with the same e-file error. Some e-file issues may require resolution by the IRS.


10. Can I file a belated return for any financial year, or are there specific years for which belated returns are allowed?

Belated returns can generally be filed for any financial year. However, the timeline for filing belated returns is subject to certain conditions. As of the A.Y. 2023-24 (FY 2022-23), the belated return can be filed until 31 December 2023.


11. What documents do I need to file a belated return?

The documents required for filing a belated return are similar to those for filing a regular return. This includes your PAN, Aadhar, Form 16 (if applicable), details of income from all sources, and any other relevant financial documents.


12. Is there any difference in the tax calculation or exemptions between a regular and a belated return?

The tax calculation and exemptions remain the same for both regular and belated returns. However, filing a belated return may incur late filing fees and interest as per applicable rules.


13. What is the process for pre-validating a bank account for receiving a refund through a belated return?

To pre-validate your bank account for receiving a refund, log in to your e-filing portal and navigate to the profile settings. Add your bank account details and complete the pre-validation process to ensure a smooth refund transaction.


14. Can I file a belated return if I have not paid the taxes for the relevant financial year?

Yes, you can file a belated return even if you have not paid the taxes for the relevant financial year. However, it's essential to clear any outstanding tax liabilities along with applicable interest.


15. Are there any consequences for not responding to a notice from the income tax department related to a belated return?

Failure to respond to a notice from the income tax department can lead to legal consequences. The department may take actions such as issuing penalties, and in extreme cases, legal prosecution with potential imprisonment for up to seven years. It's crucial to address any notices promptly through the e-filing portal.






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