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Govt may bring excise duty, service tax closer
October, 27th 2006
A Convergence of service tax rate of 12 % and a median excise duty of 16% may be on the cards. This is a part of the governments plans to restructure levies to reduce distinctions between the manufacturing and service sectors and remove multi-level duties. We should be bringing excise and service tax rates closer, a senior finance ministry official said. The idea, which is still at the conceptual stage, could be taken forward in the forthcoming Budget. Pointing at the need for having convergence in the rates, the official said that there was some inversion in the duty structure with regard to availing of Cenvat credit. This was mainly due to differences in the rate of excise duty and service tax. Cenvat credit is available both for excise duty and service tax. An overhaul of excise duty structure is also on the governments radar, the official said. Excise collections have not shown the buoyancy which other taxes have due to various exemptions. However, for any reduction in the excise median rate of 16%, the tax base will have to be broadened. The government has already overhauled the administration of income tax and customs substantially. New measures like annual information return have been introduced to track evasion in income tax. In fact, even a new income tax act prepared by an expert group in the ministry is being examined. In customs, the government has introduced electronic data interchange to bring in transparency in functioning. The government had collected Rs 41,836 crore in excise duty up to August 06, against Rs 39,380 crore in the previous year, witnessing a growth of 6.6%. While this may look reasonable when compared with the 6.5% growth target set in the Budget, it is way below the growth rates recorded in collections of other indirect taxes like customs and service tax at 33.5% and 63.5%, respectively. It may be noted that excise forms the largest chunk in the governments tax kitty.
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