FM asks tax officials to focus on big clients, non-filers

The Minister said he had impressed upon the tax officials "that revenue mobilisation is the most important task of the department and they should achieve this (tax collection) target".

New Delhi: Exuding confidence that revenue collection target will be met in the current fiscal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday asked tax officials to focus on top 100 excise payees and 12 lakh service tax assesses who have stopped filing returns.

"It is not surprising that non-filers and stop-filers have mounted in service tax. The number exceed 12 lakh or so. We are targeting them," he told reporters after inaugurating the annual conference of Central Board of Excise and Customs.

The Minister said revenue mobilisation is the most important task of the department and they should achieve the indirect tax collection target of over Rs 5.63 lakh crore.

"We will achieve revenue target. Just like we will achieve in CBDT side, we will achieve in the CBEC side as well," Chidambaram said.

The government has set a total tax collection target for the current fiscal at Rs 12.35 lakh crore, as against Rs 10.38 lakh crore.

Referring to the excise duty, the minister said there are only 1.2 lakh excise duty assesses in the country.

"It is the smallest tax base of any tax and I will impress upon chief commissioners to keep a close touch with top 100 assesses and regard them clients, regard the department (CBEC) as service provider," he said.

The top 100 clients accounts for over 80 percent of excise duties that are paid.

On the service tax which accounts for about one-third of direct tax collection, Chidambaram said people are not yet used to the idea of this taxation.

"They are used to the idea of excise duty but they don't realise that service tax is only other side of excise duty... If you produce a good you pay excise duty, you produce a service you pay the service tax. But somehow there is mindset that why we should pay service tax," he said.

He said people "must get to the idea" that GDP is made up of goods and services.

On the one-time voluntary compliance scheme (Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme) announced in the Budget for service tax, Chidmabaram said the government is going to advertise it in a big way to create awareness.

The minister said he himself will address meetings on this at chambers of commerce and industry associations in major cities and towns.

"There is one-time opportunity to come clean and pay your arrears of service tax without interest and without penalty and then pay regularly thereafter," he said.

The tax department will soon come out with an FAQ (frequently asked question) on the compliance scheme as so far the response to it has been very less.

This fiscal, the government expects Rs 1.8 lakh crore from service tax accounts.

The target for indirect tax collection, comprising customs, excise and service tax, is Rs 5.65 lakh crore for 2013-14, 19 percent more than the previous fiscal. The collection in the last financial year was Rs 4.73 lakh crore.

The minister also said there are human resource issues in the CBEC which will be addressed and large number of vacancies will be filled.

The matters related to cadre restructuring in the indirect tax department will be soon taken to the Cabinet, Chidambaram said.

He also announced that it has been decided to set up an "institutional structured mechanism" for industry groups, chambers and associations to communicate their tax related problems to the Finance Ministry.

Parthasarathi Shome, advisor to the Finance Minister, will hear problems of the industry groups every Wednesday.

"I think there is a merit in setting up a forum... I have requested Dr Shome to kindly make himself available every Wednesday...And listen to at least two groups every Wednesday," Chidambaram said.

Each group will get about 30-45 minutes to come and explain their tax related problems. Shome would be assisted by other officers concerned.

"I sincerely hope that tax payers...Will take advantage of this and come and make their representations," the Finance Minister added.