What is Defective Income Tax Return? How to respond to Defective Return Notice issued u/s 139(9)?

One of my friends is a very sincere guy in paying income tax every year. He is very prompt in filing his ITR within the due date. He has filed his Income Tax Return on 15th July, 2016 and has also e-verified his ITR on the same day. His EVC has been accepted on 16th July.

After filing his return, he kept on checking the status of his ITR daily. The status of his ITR remained as ‘successfully e-verified’. During last week, he had contacted me and we had a discussion on this issue.

I have asked him to login to the e-filing portal and click on ‘My Pending Actions’ under the ‘Dashboard’ menu option. We could see that there is one pending action item under this link. My friend’s income tax return has been marked as ‘Defective Return(Incomplete Income Tax Return).

The IT dept has issued Defective Return notice u/s 139(9) on 20th July, 2016 itself. This is just after 3 days of filing ITR. But my friend has missed going through the email sent by the IT dept regarding the defective return.

So, what is a Defective Return? What are the reasons under which your ITR is treated as a Defective Return? What to do if you receive defective return notice u/s 139(9)? How to respond to Defective return notice? Can the Defective Return be revised or rectified  online?…Let’s discuss..

What is a Defective Return?

Once you file your income tax return, the details provided by you in the ITR is cross-verified and processed by the IT dept. The dept compares the details provided by you with the information that is available with them. If they find any discrepancies or mistakes or any information is missing in ITR then they will treat your ITR as Defective Return. They will then issue a Defective Return notice u/s 139(9).

Reasons for receiving a Defective Return Notice

Let me explain to you about my friend’s case and then some of the possible reasons.

My friend is a professional, so he has been filing ITR-4 form for the last few years. His professional income is less than Rs 10 Lakhs and hence it is not required to audit his accounts. There is no necessity for him to provide full details of Balance sheet & p&L account in ITR.

(As per Section 44 AB if business income exceeds Rs 1 Crore (or) professional income exceeds Rs 25 Lakh then auditing of books is mandatory.

As per Section 44 AA, certain professionals who belong to professions like  Legal, medical, Engineering, Architectural, Accountancy, Technical consultancy etc have to maintain books of accounts. The other professionals are not required to maintain books of accounts if the gross receipts is less than Rs 10 Lakhs.)

The above sections are not applicable for my friend’s case. So, when filing his ITR form, ideally he should have checked ‘No’ against both these options.

ITR Section 44AA Section 44AB Books of acounts Audit Balance sheet P&L account pic

Unfortunately, he has checked ‘YES’. If one checks these options as YES then he/she has to provide full details in Balance Sheet and P&L sections.  My friend has ticked YES but did not provide balance sheet details in the ITR.

He has uploaded the ITR without providing the required details. Hence, his ITR has been considered as ‘Defective Return’.  (In my friend’s case, the notice has been issued with an Error Code 31. This code is related to non-furnishing of Balance Sheet / P&L statement in ITR.)

Some of the other possible reasons for receiving Defective Return notice can be as below;

  • Error Code 14 : If you provide negative amount in Gross profit or Net profit sections, ITR is treated as Defective return.
  • Error Code 8 : If you file ITR-4S, even though the total presumptive income u/s 44AD is less than 8% of Gross turnover/Gross receipt”. (In this case, the tax assessee has to file ITR-4 form instead of ITR 4S)
  • Error Code 31 : Tax Payer having income under the head “Profits and gains of Business or Profession” but not filled Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Account. (Like in my friend’s case.)
  • Error Code 38 : Tax determined as payable in the return of income filed but has not been paid.

Latest update (10-November-2017) : In case you have received Defective return notice u/s 139(9) for AY 2017-18 and the error codes given in the notice are 180 & 181, kindly do not panic, the IT dept has withdrawn these notices and have emailed the respective tax assessees to ignore the notice.Defective income tax return notice 139 error code 180 181 balance sheet 6% gross profit gross receipt profit & loss statement

Defective return notice withdrawal email from the IT dept

How to respond to Defective Return Notice issued u/s 139(9) online?

Below is the step by step procedure for responding to defective return notice and e-file your rectified ITR u/s 139(9);

  • Kindly visit e-filing portal & login with your credentials.
  • Click on ‘My Pending Actions’ link under ‘Dashboard’ menu option.efiling portal my pending actions link pic
  • If your ITR has been marked as ‘Defective’ then you can see an option as ‘For your action : Details of Defective Returns – Click here.’Defective Return pending for action
  • Click on the above option.
  • You can find details of your defective return issued under section 139(9). Here, you can find notice issued date, CPC Reference number, status of your notice and Response option.Defective return notice under section 139 9 details submit response pic
  • Click on the ‘Response’ link.
  • Kindly go through the error code, error code description & Probable resolution to understand the reason for treating your ITR as a defective one.Defective return notice error code 38 31 details resolution agree with defect
  • If you believe that the reason is valid and you agree with defect then select YES option under ‘do you agree with defect’ list box.Response to defective return notice online upload revised ITR rectified itr xml file
  • You now have to correct the required details in your ITR and has to upload your new revised ITR. Kindly note that you have to select the option “In response to a notice under Section 139(9) where the original return filed was a defective return” in ITR. Revised return Revised ITR Rectified ITR filing under section 139 (9) pic
  • Select your ITR form name and upload xml file. (My friend has ticked ‘NO’ option under section 44 AA & 44 AB and uploaded the revised ITR.)Original return revised return under section 139 9
  • If you do not agree with the defect then you can select NO under column ‘Do you agree with defect?’ and  provide the remarks under column Assesse Remarks.Disagree with defective return response no tax assessee remarks

After filing your response to defective return notice, if you wish to withdraw your response then you may do so within 3 days of submission.

Also, note that if you receive communication regarding your return being defective, you have to respond to the notice or file a revised return within 15 days of receiving such intimation.

If the mistake is not rectified within 15 days, or within the extended period, or before the assessment is made, the AO will treat the income-tax return as invalid.

If you observe that in my friend’s case, he has filed the revised return after 15 days, but before the assessment is completed. So, let’s hope that his ITR will now be processed without any further notices.

In case if the status of your filed ITR has been remaining same for many days, do check the ‘pending actions link’ in e-filing portal immediately.

I hope this post is informative and useful. If you have received defective return notice, and need help in responding to the notice, kindly leave your query in the below comments section. I will surely try to assist you.

Update (01-Dec-2016) : My friend has filed the rectified ITR with options checked as ‘NO’ for Section 44 AB & Section 44 AA, but filed ITR with Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Statement. This time the ITR has been processed with ‘No Demand, No Refund’ status.

Continue reading :

  1. Income Tax Deductions List FY 2019-20 | List of important Income Tax Exemptions for AY 2020-21
  2. How to check Income Tax Refund Status online?
  3. How to reply to Non-Filing of Income Tax Return Notice?
  4. How Income Tax Department tracks the High Value Financial Transactions?

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net) (Post published on 06-September-2016)

  • Divya says:

    I also got this notice this year and did revised return before submitting response, now it is not showing me online option for submit response. What to do in this case? Please advise.

  • Prabhakar says:

    In my belated return under 139(4) of ITR2 for A/Y 19-20, Under CG A 2, I had shown cost of acquisition as greater than full value of consideration with the result STCG was negative and it appeared in CFL as total loss carried forward to future years. However TAX authorities have pointed out that I can’t carry forward loss as it is a belated return. I have accepted it and want submit a revised ITR2 under 139(5)-Revised.
    But I do not know how to do it as I am not permitted to delete the amount in CFL.
    I could show CFL as Nil only when I did not enter any figures in CG A2.
    Is it the correct way to comply with the Tax Law? Have I to Show some ware the cost of acquisition and the full value of consideration?
    Kindly respond.
    With Regards

  • Vimal says:

    i have got error code 999 under section 139(9) …what is that?

  • Rajeev says:

    I had e-filed the original tax return online via “incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in” for AY 2019-20 in May 2019. I received a notice for defective return on income amount u/s 139(9).
    I would like to correct the mistake and respond to the notice by submitting the corrected xml file online.
    However, when the use their java based utilitiy using PRE-FILL option and importing the downloaded XML file, I run into error “Please select a valid file”.

    The file is not importing. How do i successfully load the downloaded xml file into ITD utility?

    I am running out of 15 days window to respond.
    Please suggest

  • Guest says:


    I have received the letter from Income tax under section 44 AB for Financial Year 2015-16, My consultant never informed me about tax audit of financials. My shares turn over was about 15 Cr. Now i dont have any connect with my consultant. Do i need to submit my response online or it is advisable to remain present in front of officer in person and explain him the facts. Please advise.

  • Paramasivam V says:

    For AY2018-19, my family member received a Notice u/s 139(9) of Income Tax Act,1961 through email and letter dated 25/Sep/2018. When we logged in to respond to the notice on October 1,2018, there was no active link to respond to Notice u/s 139(9). Also, there was a status update under my return on 29/Sep/2018 indicating that the “Return considered earlier as defective now taken up for processing”.

    With the above update, should we need to provide any response to u/s 139(9) notice?

    • Paramasivam V says:

      The above return has been filed as an Individual using ITR-3

      • Paramasivam V says:

        The error code in the above u/s 139(9) notice is 180.

        • Sreekanth Reddy says:

          Dear Paramasivam,
          Looks like the notice has been sent by mistake.
          Similar incidents happened with many Tax Assessees for AY 2017-18 as well (as mentioned in the above article). The IT dept however has withdrawn such notices later..

  • VEENA says:

    as we are in receipt of 139(9) notice for unregisered trust please help out us how to reply for that notice

  • veena says:

    we are in receipt of 139(9) notice stating the error code 92 stating trust not claimed exemption u/s 11 or 12 and not stated income in the return as we have filed unregistered trust’s return in ITR 7 as it the 3rd year of the trust to file return and get registration u/s12A

  • swapan's Wish List says:

    I submitted my IT Return for the Assessment Year 2013-14 via ITR-1. My filing date was29.07.2013, Filing type-Original, Acknowledgement No-694703250290713. Presently the status is shown as ‘Return uploaded, pending for ITR-V/E-verification’. It seems that Income Tax Authority has not received the post copy of ITR-V for verification although I sent this in due time. Now, to resend the ITR-V for the AY-2013-14, I drew a copy of ITR-V by putting the previous acknowledgement No. in the e-filing site, but in the print copy of ITR-V a water mark ‘INVALID’ is shown on the copy. Whether I can send such copy of ITR-V to Income Tax Authority for verification to regularise the defect.

  • Sweta Kiran says:

    Hi Sreekanth,

    Please let me know while submitting the response to notice u/s 139 (9), one has to fill the complete ITR form as a fresh or only defective/missing part has to be filled in. In my case the error code is 31 (balance sheet not provided) despite of the fact that I had checked No in both of the boxes of section 44 AA and 44AB respectively in my original return. In my first response to the notice u/s 139 (9), I disagreed, however, I again received the defective notice. Please suggest the required actions to address this issue.


    Sweta kiran

  • Ashish says:

    i want know if last year ITR is file in account case, can this year change to non-account case ?
    if can change, is department send notice for why changed it ?

  • Manoj says:

    We received the first Income Tax Notice u/s 139(9) on 6th Feb. 2017 AY 2015 from CPC Bangalore bearing date of communication as 1st Dec. 2016 with Error code 31. We uploaded the revised return on 8th Feb. 2017 itself within 15 days time period only. After that we received the second Notice on 7th March bearing date of communication as 6th Feb. 2017 treating our return invalid and stating that adequate opportunity was given to assessee to rectify the defects bearing reminder date 20th Jan 2017. Now checking online we found that our return was treated invalid on 28th March 2017. We now regularly check the portal but not found any further intimation from the department so far. Please suggest the next step as nearly three months are over.

  • Sabina says:

    Hello Sir,
    Plz help I have filled ITR 4 before 4 Months then I get notice that it has been defected. My advocate sent as u/s 139(9) in 11/5/2017 but still I haven’t get any response. My acknowledged no is 772459430110517

  • K. MANSURI says:

    Dear Sreekanth Reddy Sir,
    My income from lic commission. I do not maintain books of accounts. I have filed ITR-4S for a.y.2016-17 selecting nature of bissiness 0301- General Commission agent. but my itr is declared as defective with error code 86.
    what should i do further.
    please reply.

  • S REVATHY says:


  • Bijendra Singh says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have received the notice from income tax department with error code-38 and probable resolution mentioned : tax payer pay balance tax, but how will know, that how much amount of the balance tax, so that i can get solution from this problems. please help me

  • >
    Scroll to Top