Aimed at widening revenue from indirect tax, Indian Finance Ministry has implemented one-time amnesty scheme for service tax defaulters to pay their due without any penalty or late payment charges.
The 'Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme', which came into force after passage of Finance Bill on 10 May, can be availed by a service tax defaulter by this year end.
A defaulter may declare his due tax liabilities, including the cess charges, for a period between 1 October 2007 and 31 December 2012 and pay it to the government after making a truthful declaration and can avoid penalty, interest or any other penal proceedings.
The first-of-its-kind scheme was introduced by Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram while presenting budget for 2013-14.
Of the 17 lakh registered assesses under Service tax, only seven lakh were filing returns, Chidambaram had said.
"Many have simply stopped filing returns. We cannot go after each of them. I have to motivate them to file returns and pay the tax dues. Hence, I propose to introduce a one-time scheme called 'Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme'," the Finance Minister had said.
However, any person who has furnished return and disclosed his true liability, but has not paid the disclosed amount of service tax or any part thereof, will not be eligible to make declaration for the period covered by the said return, the Finance Bill says.
To further encourage voluntary compliance by defaulters, the Finance Ministry has also decided to "reject" any enquiry or investigation against an evader, if he comes forward to make truthful declaration under this.
"A person may make a declaration to the designated authority on or before the 31st day of December, 2013," it said. All such declarant under the scheme have to pay not less than 50 per cent of the tax dues on or before 31 December, this year and the rest by 30 June 2014.
As per the government estimates, service tax evaders have deprived the exchequer of over Rs 9,872 crore during April- December, 2012. During this period, 4,133 cases of service tax were detected. Over Rs 1,969 crore has been realised from the defaulters.
The officials are conducting surveys and extensive publicity about the pending service tax liability against the defaulters. The government's indirect tax collection stood at Rs 4.75 lakh crore for 2012-13.