Author : Khyati Dharamsi/DNA
Content : Ever heard of TRPs? Not television rating points, but tax return preparers? Well, if you haven't, join the club. A year after the income-tax department introduced the concept of TRPs to help ordinary taxpayers fill up their tax returns, the scheme seems to be going nowhere. Few people know about it, and TRPs themselves see little future in it.
"Last year, I filed 40 returns and this year the number is fewer so far. Even those who are calling me are the same people whose returns I had filed last year. Normal taxpayers are still not aware of TRPs. And this year there is no publicity for TRPs," says a Mumbai-based TRP Arvind Estibeiro. Last year the income tax department had advertised the TRP scheme big time.
Of the 50 TRPs contacted by DNA across the nation (Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Nashik, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur), only three confirmed that they were still filing returns on behalf of taxpayers.
Others said they were no longer filing returns because the training was not enough or they were too tied up with other work assignments. A few claimed they had not yet received their ID cards to process returns one-and-a-half years after giving the exam.
Last year, the government had mandated NIIT and Taxmann to train 5,000 TRPs, but currently only 3,737 are qualified to do so, according to data on www.trpscheme.com. The first set of trained TRPs was not able to file many returns last year as the certificates were granted only by mid-July. On the other hand, publicity in terms of newspaper advertisements was significant last year, when the infrastructure was not ready.
After last year, no further progress has been made in training more TRPs. "We are yet to conduct the screening test for the second batch. Some things are yet to be decided. Once we decide, we will inform newspapers and put it up on the website. Then the training for the second batch will be conducted," says Rahul Dhawan, Adit (Systems) at the Resource Centre for TRPs. When asked why advertisements had not been put up to publicise the TRP scheme, he said, "Let us decide things first." He did not specify what remained to be decided.
As far as training is concerned, TRPs feel that the training programme of nine days that they undergo is not sufficient to get a complete grip of tax laws. Estibeiro, who is preparing for his CA final year exam, says: "As I have some knowledge about the subject I have been able to handle tax returns. But the training programme is not helpful."
Another lady TRP, who requested anonymity, says she discontinued participation in the TRP scheme as the training was not sufficient. There is need for a constant desk which can help TRPs to upgrade themselves after the training programme is over.
The training programme also needs to address practical issues in being a TRP, says Amutha Rajappa. "The training session is too theoretical," she adds.
Another sore point is remuneration. "The remuneration of Rs250 (per return) is not enough. I do not visit the taxpayers who call me and instead ask them to reach me as the remuneration doesn't support the travel costs and time taken," says TRP Anil Khosla, who otherwise works for a logistics firm.
TRPs get a minimum commission of Rs250 and a maximum of Rs1,000.
Filing the returns has its own challenges for TRPs. "We have no separate queue at the income tax office for TRPs. There should be some preference given to TRPs," says Khosla.
What this means is that chartered accountants (CAs) who file returns for income taxpayers will still keep laughing all the way to the bank. The initial threat that chartered accountants perceived from the ambitious project of TRPs may not actually affect CAs at all.
Author : Khyati Dharamsi/DNA