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'Service tax waiver has PM's approval'
April, 25th 2007

The Foreign Trade Policy announcement regarding waiver of service tax on exports was approved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was not unilateral as suggested by the Finance Ministry.

"No Foreign Trade Policy can be announced without approval of the Prime Minister," a senior Commerce Ministry official told PTI here.

He said many rounds of discussions were held with the Finance Ministry on the proposal and Prime Minister's clearance was obtained two days before its announcement.

Since Parliament is in session (though in recess), a copy of the policy was delivered at the Speaker's office before it was made public.

The official was reacting to reports that Finance Ministry was "taken by surprise" by Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath's April 19 announcement regarding waiver of service tax on exports.

Officials in the Finance Ministry had said yesterday that the concession to exporters having a major revenue implication would not be notified unless the Prime Minister's Office takes a decision.

When asked whether his ministry was opposed to the tax waiver, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said: "I do not want to comment on it".

The two ministries have also been at the logger heads on the SEZ policy being implemented by the Commerce Ministry. The Finance Ministry has said that tax concessions to SEZs would translate into losses to the tune of Rs 1,00,000 crore to the exchequer.

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