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IBA moots sweeping changes in service tax norms for banks
August, 25th 2006
In what can be viewed as removing grey areas related to various service tax matters in the banking sector, Indian Banks Association (IBA) has proposed sweeping tax benefits for the banking industry to the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). IBA has reviewed all the 160 items available for deductions under service tax for the banking industry. In view of difficulty by banks in collecting data on time from its numerous branches, IBA has asked CBEC to permit payment of service tax by banks on a quarterly basis as against the existing monthly basis. IBA has also asked for a procedure for filing of revised returns by the banks. In respect of forex transactions, CBEC considers the margin earned by the bank on buying and selling of foreign exchange, as a exchange profit and is hence, liable for service tax. The association argued that profit is earned or loss is suffered by trading in forex, and no service is rendered the customers. Further, the collection of bank charges in relation to taxes and duties collected on behalf of Central and state governments has been exempted with effect from September 2004. However, banks have rendered such services since July 1993. Hence, IBA has asked for exemption of these services with retrospective effect. Added to this, the industry is also facing complexities related to service taxes on card transactions. Service tax has been levied on the back-end credit or debit card transactions. However, the industry is not yet clear as to at which level of the transaction chain, the service tax needs to be levied. IBA has asked CBEC to allow levying of service tax by either the issuing bank or the acquiring bank. Currently, credit card service providers collect various types of fees while offering different services through credit cards. IBA argued that all the services should be made part of the value of taxable services. It also sought clarification regarding service tax on transfer of money by banks through different modes.
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