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Now, CBEC forms teams to hunt for companies evading taxes
January, 28th 2015

On the lines of income tax surveys of entities suspected of evading taxes, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has set up as many as 40 audit commissionerates across the country tasked to audit accounts of companies and survey their other operations to detect any tax evasion.

The results of 'non-intrusive' audits are encouraging. "In the Chennai zone we have collected over Rs 130 crore in the previous financial year (2013-14) and this financial year up to December the additional tax mop up from undisclosed income was Rs 79 crore," said service tax commissioner, Sanjay Kumar Agarwal. Agarwal also holds the additional charge of the Large Taxpayers' Unit (LTU) in Chennai.

A list of tax evasion cases detected by the audit units nationwide was not available. Each of these commissionerates is headed by a commissioner-level officer and comprises of at least 200 officials in the ranks of inspector and above.

Two audit commissionerates have been created at LTU audit commissionerate at Delhi which will have jurisdiction over companies registered with LTU Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore, while LTU audit commissionerate at Mumbai will have jurisdiction over companies registered with LTU Mumbai and Chennai. The LTU has also helped the revenue department in keeping tab on big corporates and activities of their front entities.

These audit commissionerates in the CBEC pick up cases based on third party information, intelligence gathered by the department and risk-based selection of units. They also have specialized manpower trained to look into sectors such as insurance, telecom, banking services and specific commodities, etc.

However, to make sure that its officials don't misuse the special audit powers, the CBEC has laid detailed guidelines where an assessee has to be informed in advance about the audit to be carried out at their unit and for making available all relevant documents and books of accounts. There is also a provision for monitoring committee meetings at the headquarter level.

So far, audit was carried out separately for central excise, customs or service tax. Now, with the formation of audit commissionerates, the CBEC has instructed officials to combine audit for all taxes and make it a comprehensive survey for units selected for audit.

The officers posted with these commissionerates are being trained in "compliance requirements under income tax, companies act, VAT laws to do a comprehensive and meaningful audit" as there are few manpower available having knowledge of all taxes. The CBEC has instructed its DG (Audit) to develop appropriate modules for training of these officers.

Setting up of the audit commissionerates are part of the cadre restructuring process of the department which started last October. More than 18,000 additional posts have been created, largely through internal promotions, as part of the restructuring. Around 1,000 of this will be Group A officers. This is likely to take the CBEC's strength from 66,800 to 84,800.

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