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Defaulters rush to pay service tax as Dec 31 deadline nears
December, 25th 2013

Service tax offenders have made a last minute dash for the much-touted amnesty scheme after the government made it clear it will not extend the December 31 deadline. "The scheme has received huge response in the last week...We expect more applications in the remaining five days," said a finance ministry official.

Service tax authorities received 6,821 declarations in the last five days, involving a tax of Rs 957.38 crore. The total number of declarations so far is 21,685 with a tax inflow of Rs 3,761.62 crore, which is expected to go up in the remaining five days, the official said.

Finance minister P Chidambaram has repeatedly urged service tax defaulters to take advantage of the amnesty scheme announced in the budget and come clean. "Countdown has begun and the last date is December 31. Government has made a fair and generous offer, a one-time offer that is not likely to come your way for at least a couple of decades.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of everyone to take advantage of the offer," he had said in his industry interaction at Bangalore.

The Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) promotes self-declaration of tax dues to bring people back into the tax fold. Under the scheme, defaulters have to pay at least 50% of arrears for the five-year period ending 2012 and the balance in another six months without interest.

The finance ministry also relaxed eligibility conditions for the scheme allowing for waiver of penalty for service providers who had paid tax arrears prior to its implementation. The government had detected about 10 lakh non-filers or stop filers of service tax. Collecting service tax in excess of Rs 50 lakh and not depositing it with the government is now a nonbailable offence that attracts imprisonment up to seven years.

Service tax has emerged as a major source of revenue and the government proposes to collect Rs 1.8 lakh crore in the current fiscal, up from Rs 1.3 lakh crore last fiscal. The tax, which was introduced in 1994 with a levy on three services, is now levied on all services except those in the negative list or specifically exempted since 2012.

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