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Real estate agents, tour operators under service tax scanner
August, 25th 2008

Beware! If you are a service provider, especially a real estate agent or a tour operator and not registered with the tax authorities, the service tax department has begun compiling data of such entities and will soon crack down on tax evaders.

The newly constituted Survey and Investigation Branch (SIB) of the service tax department has started scrutinising municipal corporation records, income tax returns and yellow pages, a commercial directory, to find out the real estate agents, tour operators and other service providers who are not paying service tax, an official said.
The tour and travel industry and real estate sector, which are highly unorganised, could be major evaders of service tax, he said.

There are about 4,500 registered tour operators in the country and much more are in the unorganised sector who are doing brisk business following a spurt in domestic and overseas travel in the recent past. In Delhi alone there are 800 registered tour operators, said the industry sources.

Similarly, the boom in the real estate sector has given rise to a number of brokers and middlemen who are doing substantial business in the unorganised sector.

"We want to widen the service tax base and pay special attention to these sections which are neither registered with us nor pay service tax. The ground work has already been done with regard to this and we expect to complete the process soon," the official said.

After completing the exercises of data compilation, the SIB would conduct physical surveys to identify the tax providers who are not registered with the department, the official said.

Pointing out that the exercise would bring tour operators and real estate agents within the service tax net, the official said, "they have a huge revenue potential but at present are escaping the tax net".

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