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Probe if service tax is paid to govt on pre-paid top-upsa
August, 21st 2013

Concerned that additional talk time schemes on pre-paid cellular services may not be translating into extra service tax revenue for the government, the Bombay high court has directed the service tax and income tax authorities to "investigate the issue closely".

The HC was hearing a PIL which alleged that the state is being deprived of huge sums as service tax by retailers who collect them for each "top-up" from customers but don't account for all of it. Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud and S C Gupte appointed counsel Milind Sathe as an amicus curiae (friend of court) to study the case.

The PIL filed in 2011 and later this year as a criminal petition, by Kanchandevi Kothari and Jitender Kothari, questioned the loss of revenue to the state. Retailers receive extra talk time directly from cellular service providers or distributers as commission, which are not accounted for in the books but sold to consumers from whom service taxes are collected. It is alleged that this service tax is not remitted to the government. The assistant commissioner of service tax said that "investigation by the Anti Evasion wing of the Service Tax-I, Mumbai Commissionerate, has not confirmed any evasion of service tax".

Observing that the services provided by cellular operators are chargeable to service tax, the HC held that the "service tax department must ensure that service tax is assessed and levied on all schemes by whatever name called and under whatever schemes as long as they result in providing of service by cellular operator to the consumer".

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