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Property to be attached as less than half assessees file service tax returns
August, 17th 2011

Alarmed by a possible large-scale evasion of service tax, the finance ministry has decided to use the toughest measure in its bouquet of options, seizing property of assesses not filing returns, to ensure compliance with the law.

Out of 15 lakh registered service tax assesses only about six lakh are filing returns, suggesting a large-scale evasion of service tax. In fact, data from the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence, the intelligence wing of the indirect taxes body, shows that evasion in service tax has grown by as much as 70%.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs, the apex indirect taxes body, has drawn up an action plan that includes strict action against evaders and has instructed field officials to take all steps to augment service tax collections, a finance ministry official said.

"It has been observed that the said provisions (provisional attachment of property) have not been gainfully utilised by the field formations. The board desires that the use of the said provisions should be increased and these measures should be enforced more strictly," S Dutt Majumdar, chairman, CBEC said in a letter to field officials.

The CBEC is set to lose revenues of about Rs 37,000 crore due to duty rejig on petroleum products and is looking at various means to make up for this loss as well as raise more resources. Service tax is seen as one such area where beefed up vigilance can help the government make up part of the revenue sacrificed.

The government has budgeted Rs 82,000 crore from service tax in 2011-12, an 18.1% increase in collections from the Rs 69,400 crore raised in 2010-11. Large service providers from sectors such as construction, BPO, IT, telecom and financial services could face the heat as tax officials are set to go after the big guns.

Special audits involving close examination of books and provisional attachment of property are some of the stringent measures being contemplated to tackle evasion. "(These measures) are intended to make perceptible difference in the shortest possible period while also carrying on the momentum to the subsequent year," the letter said.

The CBEC has also asked the field officials to dispose of high-value cases pending adjudication at various levels. "I expect all major cases involving revenue in excess of Rs 1 crore to be finalised in the next six months," Majumdar said.

Green Plan For CBEC Approved

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has approved an 'environment strategy' for the apex indirect taxes body, the Central Board of Excise and Customs, to ensure that customs officials remain sensitive to environment concerns.

The environment strategy, a first for any taxation department, mandates customs and directorate of revenue intelligence to implement multilateral environmental agreements (Basel Convention, Cartagena Protocol, CITES, etc.) as well as relevant domestic laws (Customs Act, 1962, and Environment Protection Act, 1988).

As a part of the strategy, the CBEC would look at reducing documentation required for trade, and train officials to monitor international trade in environmentally-sensitive goods to enhance detection of environmental violations and create database on relevant environmental information

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