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Apple plans to enter gaming industry; e-sports PC likely to be priced at $5,000

Apple Inc is looking to enter the PC gaming industry in 2020. The Cupertino, California based tech giant is likely to launch a high-end e-sports Mac at its annual WWDC conference in 2020. Apple's a new e-sports PC is expected to be a high priced unit and will cost around $ 5,000.

The global e-sports market revenue in 2019 has increased by 26.7 per cent to around $1.1 billion as compared to 2018. According to a report, this will be the first time Apple will enter the PC gaming industry. However, the company still hasn't disclosed whether the gaming computer will be a MacBook Pro or an iMac.

Apple, in September 2019, has entered the gaming industry with its Apple Arcade subscription service. Apple Arcade, which costs Rs 99 in India, allows subscribers to play games on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and Mac systems. The gaming service also allows up to six members to share the subscription in its family plan.

Currently, Apple Arcade service is offering over100 games in different genres like -- action, adventure, puzzle and more. Additionally, the company also releases new games every month. In addition to these games, one can also use Siri Remote control the games. Some of the Apple Arcade games also support third-party controllers -- Xbox's wireless controller, PlayStation's DualShock 4 and MFi controllers.

Moreover, there are also rumours that Apple is also planning to update its 11-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models with triple-lens camera setup at the rear, similar to an iPhone 11 Pro.

Finance Minister Sitharaman launches 'eBkray' auction platform for assets attached by banks

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today launched eBkray, an e-auction platform to enable online auction of attached assets by banks.

The eBkray platform provides navigational links to all PSB e-auction sites, property search feature and presents single-window access to information on properties up for e-auction, comparison of similar properties, and also contains videos and photographs of the uploaded properties.

Indian Banks Auctions Mortgaged Properties Information (IBAPI) portal is an initiative of Indian Banks Association (IBA) under the policy of the Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance, to provide details of mortgaged properties to be auctioned online by banks, starting with PSBs.

Sitharaman, while launching the platform, said, "There has been information asymmetry when bank attached assets are auctioned which will come to an end with the launch eBkray."

Buyers can use IBAPI portal to search and get properties details and participate in the auction process. Presently 21 banks are onboard on this portal

As on December 27, 2019, a total of 35,000 properties had been uploaded on the e-auction platform by PSBs, Finance Ministry said in a statement. Currently, there are 2,457 residential, 576 commercial, 333 industrial and 18 agricultural properties are available on eBkray platform among others.

PSBs have attached assets worth over Rs 2.3 lakh crore in the last three fiscal years.

Sitharaman was holding a review meeting of the banking sector with Chairman and Managing Directors of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in the national capital. Rajeev Kumar, Finance Secretary, Atanu Chakraborty, Secretary, DEA and AB Pandey, Revenue Secretary, were also present in the meeting.

The purpose of this portal is to enhance user experience through seamless access to information by the search based on the type and location of the property put up for e-auction by the banks in India.

The platform also helps the buyer to easily navigate to the bank e-auction site after a notified property is selected. It also helps the user to search property using State-wise, District-wise and bank-wise details.

Mobile internet services restored in Kargil after 145 days

Mobile Internet services were restored in Kargil district of Ladakh on Friday after remaining suspended for 145 days in the wake of the Centre abrogating provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, officials said.

The services were restored in view of complete normalcy returning to Kargil, with no untoward incident taking place over the past four months, the officials said.

They said local religious leaders have appealed to people not to misuse the facility.

Broadband services were already functional in Kargil.

Internet services were suspended on August 5, the Centre announced abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

How ITR Filing Process Has Evolved In Last 10 Years

The Income Tax Department has taken a series of steps over the past few years. From the launch of a separate portal for the online filing of income tax returns to the simplification of forms, the gamut of changes in the income tax system has enabled the assessee to complete the filing process within minutes, say tax experts. Today, it has become mandatory for individual assessees, with the exception of senior citizens, to file their income tax returns online.  

Meanwhile, the number of returns filed online has increased multi-fold over a period. The count of income tax returns filed online (through the ITR forms 1 to 7) has surged more than seven times to 6.68 crore in financial year 2018-19, from 90.5 lakh in financial year 2011.

Here's a summary of key changes in the simplification of ITR filing process in 2010s: 

Since the launch of the e-filing project by the I-T department in 2006, online filing of ITR was introduced first to organised firms and then to individual taxpayers in phases.

In May 2013, the taxman made it compulsory for individuals and Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs) earning more than Rs 5 lakh a year to file returns through the e-filing process. In other words, manual filing of ITR was no longer available for these assessees.

The most important change in the development of e-filing in the country is the refunds, say tax experts.

"The Income Tax Department used to make the refunds through cheque which sometimes caused problems such as late delivery of returns which required legwork for the average assessee. Now, you get the refund directly credited in your account within a month of filing return," says Naveen Wadhwa, DGM, Taxmann.com.

"The digital transfer and timely payment of refunds emerged as the biggest positive step to encourage the assessees to file income tax returns," he adds.

Till about three years ago, assessees had to go through the entire process of filling details such as salary and TDS breakups every time to file a return, explains Mr Wadhwa. "The I-T department is expanding the scope of pre-filled XMLs year by year. Today, other than basic information, even details such as interest and salary breakup are pre-filled," he adds.

In 2010, the taxman launched the two-page SARAL-II form for salaried taxpayers and took a number of measures towards efficient tax administration in the next year. These included an online facility for taxpayers to track the status of refunds and credit for prepaid taxes.

Also in 2011, the I-T introduced a simplified form, called 'Sugam', to reduce the compliance burden for small taxpayers (those falling within presumptive taxation).

Today, the Income Tax Department offers seven forms to the assessees for filing their income tax returns. For example, Form ITR 1 (Sahaj) is meant for resident individuals with income up to Rs 50 lakh from salary, one house property or other sources.

"Until about 4-5 years ago, the taxpayer had to print the acknowledgement form ITRV, sign it physically and send it over to the Centralized Processing Centre (CPC), Bengaluru by mail. This entire process was lengthy and costly. Today, once the ITR is filed, its verification can be done through Aadhaar OTP-based or electronic verification code (EVC)-based processes (in case of bank and demat accounts)," said Mr Wadhwa.

"The ITR forms have not been simplified much, but they have come a long way in terms of structure, classification as well as numbering... Form applicability has definitely improved to a great extent," Mr Wadhwa explains.

"The small taxpayer can complete, submit and verify the income tax return within 5-10 minutes in an easy process today," adds Mr Wadhwa.

In 2014, the Income Tax Department launched national website incometaxindia.gov.in with enhanced features and content.

The taxman expanded the "e-Sahyog" pilot initiative in 2016 to reduce the compliance cost for assessees, especially small taxpayers. The project was aimed at providing an online mechanism to resolve mismatches in ITRs without requiring taxpayers to visit the income tax office.

The top decision making body of the I-T department today reacts to assessee's concerns more rapidly, says Mr Wadhwa. "The CPC's infrastructure has improved significantly and the response time has shortened," he adds.

According to CBDT data, nearly 50 lakh people filed their tax returns online on August 31, 2019 - the last date for assessment year 2019-20. In the past few years, the income tax portal has often got jammed temporarily on the last day of submission due to heavy traffic.

In August 2019, the Income Tax Department launched a "lite" e-filing facility on its e-filing portal, aimed at easing the filing of returns. It is a lighter version of the e-filing portal.

Ola to expand AI-enabled safety feature to 17 cities in India, Australia

Ride hailing platform Ola on Monday said it will expand its AI-enabled safety feature 'Guardian' to 17 cities across India and Australia.

The 'Guardian' feature uses real-time data from rides to automatically detect irregular trip activity, including prolonged stops and unexpected route deviations.

These alerts are flagged off in real-time to Ola's 24x7 Safety Response Team that immediately reach out to customers and drivers to confirm if they're safe and offer on-the-call assistance until ride completion.

"After running a successful pilot across multiple cities in India and international markets, the 'Guardian' feature is going live in 16 Indian cities as well as Perth in Australia. Ola aims to take Guardian to more cities in the coming quarter," Ola said in a statement.

It added that Ola Guardian is built on artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities on the Ola platform which enables it to continuously learn and evolve from millions of data points to improve risk signalling and instant resolution.

Apart from the four metros, the feature will be available in Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Nagpur, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Coimbatore, Indore and Trichy.

"Our safety initiatives such as emergency button, facial recognition system for driver authentication, and one-time-password (OTP) system, are innovations that have all been built in India and now lead the global benchmarks for the mobility industry," Ola Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Arun Srinivas said.

Ola said it also conducts mandatory verification through stringent criminal records checks as well as mandatory online training for drivers that includes modules like customer service and etiquette, platform usage, partner support, defensive driving amongst others.

"To prevent driver impersonation, Ola has put in place a facial recognition system in place, which prompts on-duty drivers to upload a selfie and authenticate themselves multiple times in between rides. This feature is live across India and is also being piloted in various international markets," it added.

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