Almost all the income-tax (I-T) related activities, be it paying taxes, filing returns, replying to tax notices and so on, can be done online through the department's website — www.incometax.gov.in.
But what happens when you get stuck on the website trying to file your tax returns?
You can either email them stating your problem and then wait for a revert (which could take days or even weeks). Or you can try the chatbot — an artificial intelligence-driven chat system that tries to pin down your problem by asking you programmed questions.
But now a bigger help is at hand.
Also read | The complete Moneycontrol Tax-Filing guide
On November 14, the I-T website launched a new feature called 'co browsing' that helps taxpayers talk to helpdesk executives, who help file taxes.
There’s just one problem: the service box to initiate the process is not yet visible on the I-T website.What is co-browsing?
Co-browsing, also known as, collaborative browsing, allows helpdesk agents of the I-T department to collaborate with the taxpayer’s browser in real-time, just at the click of a button.
It puts a human at the back end who talks to you and solves your problem then and there.How does it work?
Tax filing involves many steps, from uploading documents and filling out necessary details, making payments through internet banking to finally reaching the end of the process. To make this process simpler, the co-browsing agent asks for access to your web browser in such a way that he can navigate your web browser from his workstation, wherever he is. It’s similar to a computer technology called screen-sharing but safer.
Once the agent is able to see the screen of the taxpayer, he can assist her to complete various work like filling up Income-Tax Return (ITR) or any other statutory forms. In case, there is a need to make changes in the settings of the income-tax account or to find help and reference materials for taxpayers and even upload documents, a helpdesk agent will be able to assist for all these purposes.
As per the information available through the FAQs on the income-tax website, all you need to do is visit the I-T website and look for a feature called ‘co-browsing’. Once you click on it, it connects you to the helpdesk person, who is ready to chat with you. You get a PIN, which you need to share with the helpdesk official. Once he keys in the PIN you just gave him, he can get access to your web browser to see what you have been doing.Is co-browsing safe and secure?
Yes it is. According to the I-T department, co-browsing is better than screen sharing as it does not require anyone to download any software, the agent can only view the active window of the taxpayer’s browser and nothing else. Co-browsing software also comes with a feature called data masking that hides taxpayers’ confidential data (like passwords) during a co-browsing session.
Screen sharing is a common feature used by technology sector-related service professionals to solve our computer problems. Say, you have a problem with your newly-purchased laptop. Instead of taking it to the service centre, you call up your manufacturer’s service centre, which would request you to give access to your computer to diagnose the problem. Using sophisticated software commonly available on the internet they can get inside your computer remotely to see what went wrong.
With co-browsing, all the helpdesk can get access to is your particular browser, not even your computer.
“The advantage of this feature is that it does not require any plugins or installations nor does it see any other data on your system but helps taxpayers in navigating and highlighting areas of interest. Since the OTP system has been put in place, it shields the taxpayers from any misuse of its other data on the system,” said Shailendra Kumar, chairman, Tax India Online Ltd (TIOL) Knowledge Foundation.
Taxpayers can also end the co-browsing session at any time if they wish to terminate the discussion.
According to experts, the best part is that all this will be done on a real-time basis combined with live chat and phone calls to resolve the customer's issue faster. “The income-tax department's helpdesk will become more friendly with co-browsing features. At present, taxpayers and helpdesk agents can only communicate through phone or e-mail. From a roughly 5-way resolution process currently (sending an email, receiving an email, trying to comprehend the problem, sending back the solution by email and finally the taxpayer trying to understand and implement the solution, this will now be reduced to a 2-way chat. The taxpayers explain its issues and the helpdesk agent shows or solves the issue on the taxpayer's tax portal,” said Vivek Jalan, partner, Tax Connect Advisory, a multi-disciplinary tax consultancy firm.
This would help seamless navigation, reduced average handling time, higher resolution rates, easy use, easy integration and increased taxpayer satisfaction, added Jalan.Just one problem
Although the I-T department launched this feature on November 14, it isn’t live yet or at least difficult to locate on the website.
This reporter looked for the co-browsing feature to check its true utility and whether it lived up to the tax department’s promise. After searching in vain for the co-browsing feature on the tax department’s website, we activated the chatbot called TaxGenie. Among a list of solutions the chatbot listed on the screen to pick and choose where you need help, this reporter noted that co-browsing wasn’t one among them. He then opted for a call. The chatbot asked for his complete name and contact number.
We got a phone call from the helpdesk, but the helpdesk person didn’t seem to have clarity about the co-browsing option. He concluded that it might be visible on the website “after a few days”. He asked for this reporter’s name and Permanent Account Number (PAN) to escalate the grievance.The Central Board of Direct Taxes’ spokesperson was not available for comment.