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Union Budget
Budget has devils in tax details; huge hikes in penal interest, cost of compliance to go: ASSOCHAM Tax Panel
Detecting devil in details in the Budget, the ASSOCHAM Indirect Tax Committee has said there is no justification for a huge increase in interest rate to 30 per cent from 18 per cent on delay in payment of service tax and for mandatory deposit of 7.5-10 per cent of demand before an appeal is filed for customs and excise claims.

The other major irritants and problems which increase cost and time for compliance depriving the businesses the ease of doing business relate to obligation to furnish information return by assesses, making multiple assessment for the same period and mandatory filing of appeals in the Supreme Court against the tribunal orders. 

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"Some of the measures in the Budget are retrograde and need to be revisited," Chairman of the ASSOCHAM Indirect Tax Committee J K Mittal said. 

Agreeing with him, the chamber Secretary General Mr D S Rawat urged Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley to delve into the details and correct the situation. "Before the Budget is passed, we hope Mr Jaitley given his background of a brilliant lawyer will get rid of some of the irritants which do not bring much revenue to the exchequer but give enough leeway to the officers to misuse the powers". 

For delay in payment of taxes will attract Higher rate of interest of 30% from 18%: As per the budget proposal, with effect from 1 October 2014, service tax assesses has to pay interest at the rate of 30% per annum for delay in payment of tax beyond one year and at the rate of 24% per annum delay beyond six-month and up to one year and at the rate of 18% interest per annum delay below six-month. Such a high rate of interest is unwarranted and it has no justification at all.

Firstly, Ministry of Finance does not pay even a single penny of interest, when the assesse deposit amount, during the pendency of any case, even the duration of this deposit may be more than 5 to 10 years. Secondly, delay in payment of tax, also attract separate penalty. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance not only take interest but also penalty also, for delay in payment of service tax and excise duty.

Mandatory deposit for filing of appeals: As per the budget proposals, assesses under the customs, Central Excise and Service Tax has to make mandatory deposit of 7.5% / 10% (with a cap of 10 crores) of the demand and penalty before filing an appeal before the Commissioner (appeals) or to the Tribunal. Such deposit will not attract any interest at all. Also, there is no provision of returning such deposit and as per the present experience of the assesses, deposits made by them during the pendency of the appeal are very difficult or impossible to get back from the Department.  However such provisions are very beneficial to tax evaders as by paying merely 10% of the duty and penalty demanded, he can live luxurious life.

Obligation to furnish information return: A provisions have been proposed for making an obligatory to furnish information return to a specified authority or agency would be created by the Central government. Such information return not only required to be furnished by the specified persons such as income tax, sales tax authorities or electricity board etc. but also required to be furnished by "an assesse". Therefore, on the assesse, there would be another layer of compliance with a further panel provision of rupees hundred per day for non-compliance. 

One assessment for one period: In central excise and service tax, Government has adopted a unit practice of multiple assessments for the same period for the same assesse, which is against the Canon of taxation. Thus, despite making an assessment, in normal course, Department has practice for making many assessments in one way or other way. Even recently Delhi High Court made observations and given direction to CBEC. The assessees never have feeling of finality of assessment for any period. 

Multiple inquiry/investigation/audit: In Central excise and service tax Department, as a matter of routine, summons are being issued to the assessees, which are unknown under income tax, in the name of inquiry or investigation despite having facts on record that there has been already assessment carried out against the same very assessee for the same very period and there is no check and balances on this abuse of power of officer. This practice has led to a lot of corruptions and harassment to the assesses. 

Time bound assessment: In the current budget proposals, there is a provision for providing assessment under service tax within 6 months to one year, whereas in the Central excise such provisions were made couple of years back. However, the provision indicate that such assessment need to be made where it is possible to do so by officers, that giving discretion to the officer and there is no panel provisions on the officer for not completing the assessment within time bound manner. Assessments are not being made for years by officers on their whims and fancies.

Mandatory filing of appeal in the Supreme Court against Tribunal Orders: As per the budget proposal, appeal against the tribunal order will lie to the Supreme Court even for the dispute whether excise duty or service tax attract on goods or service. Such a proposal has no justification at all.

Firstly, assessee across the country, after the tribunal order, has to move mandatorily to the Supreme Court which is not convenient for every assessee and a costly affair also. Secondly, Supreme Court constitutional bench long back as indicated that the practice for approaching Supreme Court against the tribunal order without availing the route of the High Court is not desirable and held the persons should first approach to High Court against the Tribunal order, instead of directly approaching to Supreme Court. Thirdly, assessee find is convenient to approach to the High Court within their jurisdiction against the tribunal order. Fourthly, it will lead to the filing of large number of cases in the Supreme Court and it will delay in getting the Justice, said Mr. Mittal. 

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