How these 24-year-olds are changing the country’s tax returns scenario, one filing at a time
While 2016 has seen a rise in fintech activity, there is another segment that seems to be catching the fancy of young entrepreneurs.
So why are startups still flocking to this space? Abhishek Soni’s  story might provide some answers.
Working as an auditor with Ernst & Young in Gurgaon, Abhishek used to travel to work in an Uber provided by the company. More often than not, he used to find a few familiar faces ferrying him to work and back. During the journeys, drivers would often clear their doubts on the various complicated processes of tax filing or even better, just ask Abhishek to file their taxes.
This left him with two strong points to ponder upon. First, due to the plethora of job opportunities, there was a newer segment of individuals falling under the tax filing bracket. Second, in spite of several players, there were still not enough resources to help this newer breed of tax payers with their IT returns.
This is the story of how he decided to start up. How he justified his decision to his family is another story altogether. For obvious reasons, they didn’t understand why Abhishek would leave a well settled job to foray into untested waters.
During this time, Abhishek reconnected with Vertika Kedia , whom he knew from his CA internship days, and explained his decision to her. Seeing the idea’s potential, she plunged in and together they founded online professional tax filing service Tax2win in July 2015.
Filing returns, one at a time
Another major validation to Abhishek’s idea came when the firm launched the Beta version of the product. Within the first 10 days of launch, the firm got close to 1,000 users on their platform, filing 300 returns while forging three corporate partnerships around the same time.
Tax filing is a very subjective process, with each case being different from the other. In such a case, technology cannot fully standardise the process.
This was one of the basic fundamentals behind providing a differentiated experience to their consumers.
At the start of the process, users are asked certain basic questions, like whether they have a fixed salary or any assets or savings. Based on these responses, users’ journeys are customised, asking them to fill up only the relevant fields of information. Abhishek remarks,
The amount of information thrown at an individual can be overwhelming. This is one of the major reasons why tax filing in India is considered to be such a complicated process.
The platform also provides a CA Assistance feature for individuals still unsure about filing their taxes. On booking the service, the platform asks individuals to upload their documents, which are reviewed by a CA who then shows them the best way forward. All doubts are answered by the accountant within 24 hours of raising the request. Priced at Rs 299 annually, the service also allows users to be connected to their personal accountants all year round.
However, the team didn’t stop there. Abhishek rightly says that even after being confident of their filings, individuals still wish to get them cross-checked by CAs or professionals thorough with the process.
Keeping this tendency in mind, the platform has a ‘CA Reviewed’ feature where the filing is cross-checked and reviewed by a CA before submission. The firm charges a nominal fee of Rs 99 for this service. Though it has not yet been marketed, the firm is expected to fully roll out the service by September this year.
During the current tax filing season, 30,000 users used the Tax2win platform, of which 4,000–5,000 opted for the CA Assistance service.
On the B2B front, the firm ties up with corporate houses and sets up helpdesks in their office premises to help employees file their taxes. As of now 30–50 percent of the firm’s revenue comes from the B2B side of the business.
Tax2win’s clientele includes names like the Indian Railways, Marriott Group of Hotels, Fortis Healthcare, Idea Cellular, and IndiGo, amongst others.
The firm also claims to have raised an investment of one million from a business house in Jaipur.
Moving forward, the platform plans to introduce TDS filing and tax-saving services along with newer product lines for these B2B clients. Having a team of 45 people (of which more than 20 are CAs), the firm also plans to expand rapidly in the next four months, setting foot in Mumbai and Bengaluru. In fact, Abhishek claims that the firm is also looking to shift its headquarters and core team from Jaipur to Bengaluru.
However, for the founders, the vision remains to make Tax2win the ultimate destination for any tax- related tasks. In line with this vision, the firm is also introducing technologies which will allow CAs to remotely track an individual’s financials through consent from their personal smartphones.
This will remove the friction of uploading documents, with the CA being completely aware about an individual’s financial status and health.
Speaking about competition, Abhishek states,
“There is only three to four percent of the total Indian population which really file their taxes today. Out of this percentage a mere, 0.2 percent file their taxes online, leaving the market still nascent and untapped.”
On the other end is competitor ClearTax, founded in March 2011, which as of the last tax season claimed to be helping 10 lakh individuals file their taxes. The firm also claims to have an army of 10,000 CAs and experts registered on its platform, while raising a funding of more than $15 million this year.
Further, fintech players like Zerodha and Taxmantra are also getting into the game with Z-Connect and Makeyourtax respectively. However, the audience targeted might be different (Z-Connect is focused on traders).
But like other fintech segments, the focus for the tax filing sector remains to be on growing the pie and getting more individuals to file their taxes online. With a new player sprouting up every tax filing season, the competition is also on the technology backend and simplicity of the experience provided to the user.
With multiple players existing, it might be possible to see future consolidation in the space.