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Tax dept unearths Rs 217-cr evasion
November, 12th 2008

Maharashtra's sales tax department has busted tax evasion worth Rs 217 crore in raids carried out since January this year, state finance minister Jayant Patil revealed on Monday at a media meet. Mr Patil said the investigation branch of the sales tax department has been able to detect a hawala racket operated by some dealers to evade tax on a number of commodities.

The tax evasion of Rs 217 crore has been detected on a total turnover of Rs 2,300 crore, Mr Patil said. The sales tax department has initiated criminal proceedings against more than 550 dealers found involved in the racket, sales tax commissioner Sanjay Bhatia informed. Since 2008, the sales tax department has carried out around 660 raids throughout the state. Some of the commodities in which evasion has been found out are iron and steel, non-ferrous metal, computer parts, paper, marble, plywood, and edible oil.

Explaining the modus operandi of this hawala racket, Mr Bhatia said the tax evaders would obtain registration under the Maharashtra VAT Act and issue sale bills on a large scale without actually carrying out the transactions. The dealers who got such bills would claim input tax credit. Since the hawala dealer who had issued the fake bills had not paid any tax on them, this resulted in money being drained out from the state exchequer in the form of input tax credit and refund to the purchasing dealers.

The raids and investigation carried out also detected dealers in the automobile sector evading tax by not filing returns or filing wrong returns. In Amravati division, bogus branch transfers shown by dealers in edible oils involved a turnover of Rs 140 crore.

Due to raids and reforms carried out by the sales tax department, Maharashtras sales tax receipts till September 30 have shown a jump of 21% over collection during the corresponding period the last fiscal. By September 30 this year, the state had mopped up Rs 2,0435 crore, while the last fiscals total collection was a little more than Rs 31,000 crore, Mr Bhatia said.

Asked if the state had revised its sales tax target for the current fiscal considering the global economic meltdown, Mr Patil said the impact of the slowdown would be known only at the end of the current quarter. First two quarters have been satisfactory, but the meltdown would certainly make an impact. We cant make a prediction though at this stage, Mr Patil said.

Since the introduction of value-added tax to replace sales tax, the state wanted the new regime to stabilise, and hence, was going slow on investigation and raids. But since January, the drive is being implemented to create an atmosphere of tax compliance and ensure deterrence for tax evaders, Mr Patil said.

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