With the government’s amnesty scheme closing on Tuesday, the revenue department has so far received requests from service providers for their past dues of R5,500 crore.
The amnesty requests roughly correspond to a turnover of R55,000 crore of services rendered over the last five years, on which tax ought to have been paid.
Briefing reporters, finance secretary Sumit Bose said that every effort is being made to assist those who sign up for the Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES), under which 40,000 businesses have sought amnesty so far. The scheme was the brainchild of finance minister P Chidambaram.
Once the scheme concludes on December 31, the service tax administration will crack the whip on tax evaders who have not availed of the scheme.
"I would like to advise that from January 1, 2014, stern action will be taken against service tax evaders and the provisions in the Finance Act relating to arrest and prosecution will be enforced in right earnest," said Bose.
through the Finance Act, 2013, the government had made non-payment of service tax collected on behalf of it exceeding R50 lakh for more than six months a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Officers require no warrant from a court to initiate a probe, or to arrest the accused for cognisable offences.
The secretary also said the amnesty scheme is available only till December 31. "There will be no extension of the scheme since the last date is laid down in the Finance Act, 2013," he said.
Service tax authorities will be working beyond their normal working hours on Monday and offices will remain open till midnight on December 31, the last day of the scheme, to accept all declarations, the secretary said.