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Decoding service tax
August, 24th 2006
Traditionally, most chartered accountants have been busy only with direct taxes. But with a steady expansion in the services sector, and with newer services brought under the tax net, professional practice in this sphere has become alluring. To help the interested, here is the fifth edition of Assessee's Guide to Service Tax, in two volumes, by Dr Sanjiv Agarwal, from Snow White Publications (www.swpindia.com). The first volume begins with many takeaways in the form of `referencer' tables on topics such as various obligations under service tax, due dates, specific abatements, and possible inclusions/exclusions from service tax. For instance, under `survey and map making services', inclusions are `map making, geological geophysical or any other prospecting, surface/sub-surface/aerial surveying'. Exclusions under the `video production agency' include `film shooting, contracts not involving client, reproduction of copies, TV serial production as producer, and broadcasting services.' It is essential to know the meaning of the different services, as explained in the `at a glance' section of the book. For example, the meaning of `tour operator's services' is given thus: "Tour means a journey from one place to another irrespective of the distance between such places, and tour operator is a person engaged in the services of planning, scheduling, organising or arranging tours by any mode of transport and includes a person engaged in the business of operating tours in a tourist vehicle covered by a tourist permit." Part II of the book is on `law and procedures'. A topic of current relevance should be `export of services', in the context of SEZs (special economic zones). Units in these zones are exempt from many taxes, including service tax. Dr Agarwal draws up a `taxability matrix' to explain the law relating to export of services. There are three categories of services, viz. services provided in relation to an immovable property situated outside India; services provided where the place of performance is outside India; and services received by a person outside India. Volume II has chapters 19 to 110, dealing elaborately with each of the taxable services, in an A-Z order. The author, a CA, talks about `suggested books of accounts' to help service providers comply with the law. For example, `copies of agreements, contracts or MOUs with clients' are part of the recommended record-keeping in the case of construction of complex services. For manpower recruitment or supply services, `register of recruitments' is required. And for outdoor catering services, the list of records begins with `copies of agreements or contracts'. Perhaps, this would also have details of the consensus menu! After the ever-contentious `goods transport agency services' is a welcome chapter that should make for a healthy read on health clubs and fitness centre services. In this, one learns that `Turkish bath' involves `providing steam at different temperatures' and that `massage' is `exercise of muscles and tissues for remedial or hygienic purposes'. Illustrative list of exclusions are `medical therapy, therapeutic massages, ayurvedic health centres providing medically advised therapies and massages, yoga classes, naturopathy clinics, doctor's clinic and so on'. Imperative additions to the practitioner's shelf.
 
 
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