Coming down heavily on the service tax evaders, the Revenue Department has arrested 27 persons for alleged tax evasion and proposes to take tough action against those who had failed to take advantage of the amnesty scheme which concluded on December 31.
"27 persons have been arrested all over the country for evading service tax. These arrests were made between August 2013 to January 14, 2014 period after the government got the power to crack the wip on service tax evaders.
"In majority of cases, service provider had collected the service tax amount but did not remit the same with the government," a senior Finance Ministry official said without identifying people who are arrested.
The official added that "In just one fortnight in January, the revenue department has arrested seven persons, and total tax amount due to them is around Rs 35 crore. Twenty persons were arrested between August 2013 to December 31, 2013."
Elobarating further he said that out of seven arrests which were made in the first fortnight of January, three arrests were related to those who had applied for Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) but did not deposit tax dues to the government by December 31.
"In three cases, out of seven cases, concerned parties had applied for VCES but did not deposit money to the government. If you don't pay tax dues amount then you are no longer the applicant," the official said.
He further said that all over India, the department will maintain the pressure on service tax evaders as the department does not want people to invade taxes.
"Finance Minister had taken personal interest in convincing service tax evaders to take advantage of amnesty scheme(VCES). We will be very strict with those who are evading service tax," the official said.
The arrests were made after the Government of India brought the evasion of service tax under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
An evasion of service tax of Rs 50 lakh and above has now been made a cognisable offence after the passage of current fiscal's Finance Bill on May 10.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has proposed provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to arrest such offenders in 2013-14 budget, in line with customs and central excise laws.
Earlier, the officials did not have any power to arrest a person for service tax evasion.
Besides, director and manager of a company who fail to pay collected service tax can now be arrested with imprisonment for up to seven years in addition to the penalty which may extend to Rs 1 lakh.
The action taken by the department is in line with government policy, whereby government had announced VCES Scheme to pay all dues, but in spite of the said scheme, the tax payers are not coming clean.
The scheme was aimed at encouraging disclosure of tax dues by persons who have not paid up between October 2007 and December 2012.
They were required to pay at least 50 per cent of their dues by December 2013 and the rest by June 2014 without interest and penalty.
The service tax amnesty scheme has yielded around Rs 7,700 crore to the exchequer.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram had met industry bodies to encourage assessees to take advantage of the tax amnesty scheme to avoid punishment.
According to government estimates, out of 17 lakh registered service tax payers, only 7 lakh are paying the levy.