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Faster service tax refunds on cards
February, 16th 2009

Service tax refunds for exporters are set to become easier and speedier. The government is likely to do away with some of the
procedural requirements that delay issue of refunds to exporters.

The issue of delay in refund of service tax paid on input services used by exporters has been hanging fire for some time now. The Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) officials have had a series of meetings with industry representatives from various sectors including IT, commerce ministry officials and its field officials to resolve the issue and ensure speedier refunds.

The new rules are expected to be unveiled this week, a government official said.

Some steps being considered to make the refunds easier are doing away with the requirement of documentary proof and third-party verification in some cases. Interpretation of export of service rules has also led to piling of refunds or issue of showcause notices to units, especially in the case of business process outsourcing.

The ministry is also taking a relook at the rule which was slowing down refund claims wherein the finance ministry was insisting that service tax refunds would be made only after proof of realisation of export proceeds was given by exporters.

Exporters claim that often there was a time lag between shipment sent and payment realised and, therefore, it was unfair to keep exporters hanging till they realise payment.

The exporting community has time and again taken up the issue with the finance ministry saying that though service tax reimbursement had been allowed on paper, little was actually being refunded as the rules for making claims remained ambiguous and unrealistic.

"We have asked the finance ministry to give us details of the claims made and the refunds given. Wherever we find that claims have been rejected on unrealistic grounds, we are going to contest that," a commerce ministry official said.

The finance ministry has, till now, allowed exporters to claim refunds on total 19 services. An impetus on linkage between service availed and exports made was also making things difficult for the exporters as for a number of services, it was difficult to directly link it to exports.

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