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Budget's non-tax support to MSMEs will be made available through Sidbi
March, 19th 2013

In the recent Budget, the finance minister said that "at present, service tax does not apply to air-conditioned restaurants that do not serve liquor. The distinction is artificial, and I propose to levy service tax on all air conditioned restaurants." We have an office canteen, run by the employer, which is centrally air-conditioned. Is service tax leviable on food served in such a canteen?

Services provided by employees to employers are in the negative list, but not services provided by employers. With effect from 1.4.2013, S. No. 19 of the mega exemption notification no. 25/2012-ST dated 20.06.2012 (as amended by notification no. 2/2013-ST dated 1.3.2013) will read as, "Services provided in relation to serving of food or beverages by a restaurant, eating joint or a mess, other than those having the facility of air-conditioning or central air-heating in any part of the establishment, at any time during the year;" Thus, employers cannot claim exemption from 1.4.2013 under that entry and will have to pay service tax on the amount charged from employees for food or beverages served in air-conditioned canteens.

Is there any tax relief for small-scale industries in the recent budget?
No tax relief for MSMEs has been announced in the Budget for 2013-14. However, some non-tax support measures have been announced that will be mostly made available through Sidbi. Funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions and approved by the ministry of science and technology or the ministry of MSME will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenditure. Fifteen more tool rooms and technology development centres will be set up to support small businesses. Non-tax benefits will be available to a MSME unit for three years after it graduates to a higher category.

What is the duty applicable on sale of innerwear from an SEZ to a domestic tariff area (DTA)? Is there any exemption?
As per Section 30(a) of the SEZ Act, 2005, 'subject to the conditions specified in the rules made by the Central Government in this behalf, any goods removed from a SEZ to DTA shall be chargeable to duties of customs including anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard duties under the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.' You can claim any applicable exemptions but in your query, the word 'innerwear' is too broad and covers many items. So, you may determine the exact classification to help you get a precise reply.

If I import some consumables through a courier, can I use the duty credit scrip issued under the SFIS Scheme for payment of duty? If yes, can you give a reference to the notified procedure?
Since clearance under SFIS entails additional compliances, you have to ask the courier upfront to file a normal bill of entry instead of a courier bill of entry, and be prepared for delays in assessment and clearance. You may refer to CBEC Circular 85/98-Cus dated 13.11.1998, in this regard. You may also refer to Chapter 16 of the Customs Manual that you can access through the website

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