Service tax amnesty target modest despite vast scope
March, 12th 2013
The amnesty scheme announced for service tax evaders in the 2013-14 Budget is likely to net the exchequer R400 crore, going by the conservative estimate of finance minister P Chidambaram. The estimate looks very modest, considering the fact that 65% of the $1.8-trillion economy accounts for services and, by the minister’s own admission, 10 lakh of the total 17 lakh registered service taxpayers have stopped filing returns. In the first three quarters of the current fiscal, service tax evasion of R9,875 crore was detected, 20% of which has been recovered.
“Although the potential for recovery of evaded tax is huge, we do not have an idea how many would avail of the scheme and, hence, the modest estimate,” said an official familiar with the working of the scheme. Another reason for the conservative estimate is that scheme doesn’t cover businesses that are already under tax audit, probe or have been issued a notice, said the official.
Under the amnesty scheme, the revenue department expects to collect taxes without interest and penalty mainly from restaurateurs, rent-a-cab service providers and those offering services to construction, infrastructure and mineral exploration industries under work contracts. Government sources said these are businesses where non-payment to the exchequer of the 12.36% tax collected from service recipients is most rampant. Supply of manpower is another service where the offence is widespread.
In view of the widespread tax evasion in these sectors, the government had last year introduced partial reverse charge of service