As many as 40,000 applications had been filed to avail of the service tax amnesty scheme till Sunday, declaring Rs 5,500 crore of taxable dues. Half this amount has to be deposited by Tuesday, when the scheme ends, by the assessees under the Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES).
Revealing this at a press conference here, Finance Secretary Sumit Bose on Monday urged all service tax evaders to come forward to avail of the scheme. Failing to do so would invite stern action, including arrest and prosecution, he warned. The ministry has been issuing advertisements in the media in this regard.
The declaration of Rs 5,500 crore of taxable dues would broadly correspond to Rs 55,000 crore of services, Bose said. He refused to divulge details such as which segments had contributed the most.
Bose said VCES has received overwhelming response. “In the last four days, we have received over 16,000 applications involving Rs 1,500 crore of service tax dues.”
However, 40,000 applications under the scheme constitute only a small part of the total service tax assessees who have stopped filing returns. In his Budget speech, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said while there are nearly 1.7 million registered assessees under service tax, only about 700,000 file returns.
To enthuse more assessees to come forward, the ministry has directed all offices that collect applications to remain open “well beyond the normal working hours”. On Tuesday, the last day of the scheme, the offices will remain open till midnight.
Bose ruled out extension of the scheme.
Those who avail of the scheme will have to file another half of their taxes up to June 30, 2014 without interest. After that, taxes could be filed with interest payments till December 31, 2014.
The sum of Rs 5,500 crore pales in comparison with Rs 1.8 lakh crore pegged to be collected from service tax altogether in 2013-14. In fact, part of the amount will spill to the next financial year as well. However, it is much higher than the Rs 1,000 crore initially estimated to be mopped from the scheme, officials said.
In his Budget speech, Chidambaram had said: “I hope to entice a large number of assessees to return to the tax fold. I also hope to collect a reasonable sum of money.”