Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Oops I did it again!!!

I did this for the first time in my life in Delhi. I did not understand anything about it at that time. My friends helped me out. It was not a good experience and not a very exciting thing to do. But I knew, even then that I can’t escape from doing it again and again,every year. Look, I am not very enthusiastic about filing income tax returns. It is not my cup of tea!! So every year as the month of July nears, I become a nervous wretch at the thought of those forms, numbers and calculations.
Like all who curse the duty of filing income tax returns, I do not do anything about it until I get my Form-16. I assume, let- them-first-send- Form-16-attitude and forget about it till such time I actually receive it. This year was no different on my part (the only thing that doesn’t change in this ever-changing world is ME) but IRLA actually forgot to post my Form-16. Prodded by my conscientious colleague whose sermon that Filing Income tax returns is the most important fundamental duty of every Indian (albeit not actually mentioned in our Constitution), I tried to get information about my Form-16 on phone. As expected the person at the other end had not a clue about what or where of my Form-16, so I faxed a letter briefly reminding them that if they don’t fax form-16 immediately, they will be held responsible for preventing a government servant from fulfilling her obligation. To my pleasant surprise, they faxed Form-16 SAME DAY to my office. I filled the tax form with the details (1). I did have my doubts about what to put under Name of the Employer. The wicked side in me was egging me on to write H E President of India, since my tenure is all dependent on His..err..Her pleasure now. But as usual better sense prevailed and since the space was too small I squeezed in the office address somehow, using the widely accepted short-forms(like GOI, BLR etc) wherever possible.
With the excitement of a nanny who happily prepares the naughty child to the school so as to be free of the responsibility for a while, I bunched together the necessary documents and sent it off with the office boy.

After 45 minutes he returns holding the acknowledgement form which I had forgotten to download. So the boy again goes with ITR and Acknowledgement, but again returns with ITR, acknowledgement and a ? mark in the ITR against employer’s name. Since the people accepting the forms could not be reached through phone, I, with anger welling up inside, decide to go there myself.
There is something about ‘obligatory duties’ in Government. They are done with lots of fanfare. The IT office was pasted with posters, info nuggets about IT returns. Different tables, different queues for different sections. The queue where I had to file my returns was not very long, with just 5 middle-aged men ahead of me. Within a minute I was the second person in the queue. The reason- other 4 either belonged to PSUs or were under a different income category. They were just standing in my queue in spite of the big boards/banners behind every table specifying the category(2).
At the IT table, my original intention of giving vent to my anger is dropped since it was two elderly ladies who were manning the table and more over I thought ‘one spoke in the giant wheel called Government pointing fingers and shouting at another spoke’ does not look good!!
I open the ITR and point out the question mark to them.
They ask ‘yes, but what is the name of the organization?’
Now, I understood that they could not understand what I had written for the Employer’s name.

With utmost patience I show the organization's name on the Form-16 which was attached to the ITR.
The lady says ‘ayyo, it is here only, we did not know’.
Yes, they did not know for whatever reasons it may be. For a fraction of a second I felt sorry for their plight. They have been just asked to verify forms before accepting it and they were doing just that. But this empathy did not last more than a second. If they were ignorant, then they did not have the right to be there in the first place. Can ignorance be pleaded as an excuse before the Court. No. I told them the same thing. The people standing in other queues were staring with distaste at the young lady (yes, even though I feel old and jaded inside, may be because of my thin frame I always pass off as a much younger person than what actually I am!) who was trying to ‘teach’ elderly ladies. The two ladies did not have anything to say. I wanted to shout like the Queen ‘Off with her head!’ But I realized that even if I complained they would not mind, because they would be just too glad to miss the thankless duty if they were shunted out of it.
Its just awful. I feel fall in standards, quality,withdrawl of efficient people is not part of some fiction. Only we are not noticing it. or may be we pretend not to notice it. I dont know.

(1) Incidentally, the new 3-page ITR-1, which had initially put me off because of the number of columns, is not as difficult as I had imagined. I was bit suspicious whether it would be 'Khatinn' forms since they dropped the 'Saral' for new ITRs without giving them any names!! But ITR-1is indeed easier for us poor souls who have no other source of income other than salary.
(2)It again proves my long held theory that there is no difference between literates and illiterates when it comes to standing in the wrong queue. I have seen people, who definitely give the impression of possessing the ability to read and write, asking the man behind the counter, questions, answers for which are written often in big letters in a board or on the wall. May be its human tendency, but somehow I always find it ridiculous.


Atoorva said...

Filling up IT return is always such a pain...and for all of us. I also feel the futility of the entire exercise as noone will bother to check what I am filling long as I have put something in al columns ..And even th e-filing introduced this year ,is not all that simple. The other day I was trying to help an illiterate widow getting her husband's EPF account claim from the office of Provident Fund Commissisoner and to my horror I found the form is a huge one( to be filled in duplicate)...and it was complex enough to force a civil servant like me thinking twice --what will come where .
I strongly feel there should be some effort to simplify the forms we use ....have u ever tried opening a DMAT account ?...I want to see one person who can say he/she has read the entire form before signing it at about 26 places .

But all of us babus much we love these complex forms and returning them on flimsy grounds.

alice said...

I know DMAT is something to do with shares and equities..beyond that i am clueless...Now i am fairly well equipped with your warning if ever such a time comes!!
I agree with you, not only the forms are complex, but the people who can guide you about them are scarce..this time Govt outsourced it. One could get help, if one had money!! Fair enough,Right!