Can an Income Tax Return (ITR) be filed for the last Financial Years?

Last Updated On: Oct. 28, 2021, 10:48 p.m.


Income Tax Return (ITR) is a process of informing the government about the income you have earned during the fiscal year in question (1 April to 31 March of every year). The ITR is a consolidated document, which consists of your income, total tax payable, liabilities and tax refunds for the financial year. ITR should be filed before the deadline in July every year.

For example, for the financial year 1 April 2019 – 31 march 2020, a taxpayer should file their ITR by July 2020. Similarly, there are different ITR forms and one should know which ITR they should file. To know which ITR form is applicable to you, get in touch with our tax advisors. 


No, you cannot file an ITR for the last three years together, that is, in one year. Before diving into this topic let us clarify the difference between a financial year and an assessment year. For instance, if the financial year we are taking into consideration is  1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021, the income earned during this financial year becomes taxable in the assessment year which ranges between 1 April 2021 – 31 March 2022. Here the deadline is 31 July 2021 for salaried/self-employed/contract employees and 30 September for companies, working partners etc. This is the structure prescribed by the income tax department that must be followed by every taxpayer while filing the tax return.

But this structure is not a rigid one and is subject to a few exemptions. Usually, the government will extend the deadline for some months as multiple problems can be faced by the taxpayers while filing the tax returns. In case you have missed the extended deadline fixed for filing your ITR, you can still file your ITR with a penalty through a ‘Belated Return’ which was first introduced in the Finance Act of 2017.


Belated Income Tax Return

As per section 139(4) of the income-tax act, 1961, if any individual fails to file the income tax returns within the due date, he can file a belated return with the penalty prescribed by the income tax department.

This belated return can be filed at any time before the end of the corresponding assessment year or before the completion of assessment by the tax authorities whichever is earlier. This scheme has been made applicable from the assessment year of 2017-2018. i.e from the financial year of 2016-17. 

This can be explained further with an example: the income tax return due date for the fiscal year 2017-2018 was 31 July 2018 and 30 September 2018. If a taxpayer fails to file the ITR on time for any reason, he has the option of filing a belated tax return before the end of the corresponding assessment year, i.e. before 31 March 2019.


Under section 234A of the Income Tax Act, if the assessee has filed a belated ITR, then he is liable to pay the tax along with 1% interest per month

Similarly, the taxpayer should pay the prescribed penalty with the belated ITR

If the return filed is after the assessment which later gets cancelled, then the return will be considered valid

As per the Finance Act, the belated ITR can also be revised, which means that any mistakes made while filing the income tax return can be fixed

If a taxpayer is not liable to pay any taxes, then he is exempted from paying the interest and penalty for belated ITR but only if he files it before the end of the corresponding assessment year.


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