New Delhi: Speaking about the evolving role of the Customs Department, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the department was facing a twin challenge.
"The department has twin role to play. You ought to have a detection machinery in place so as to ensure that tax evasion does not take place. At the same time, you have to be a trade facilitator which makes entry into borders easy. It is in the larger interest of domestic economy to ensure that trade facilitation takes place," he said.
He added that the department needs to find a balance between the two seemingly contradictory roles.
"In customs, tariffs have been rationalised. (Due to) the increased focus on 'Make in India', plus the availability of a large number of goods and commodities within the country, the nature of Customs Department itself has changed."
He urged the customs officials to bring greater efficiency in cross-border trade which could go a "long way in improving India's 'ease of doing business' ranking. "Out of the 10 criteria that the World Bank follows, there are at least three -- relating to municipal permissions of land and buildings, trading across borders and contract enforcement -- which are not very difficult to satisfy. If we hit the bullseye on these three, then to come down to substantially below 100 (rank) is reasonably possible.
Jaitley also spoke about the GST structure and said that it has now stabilised, offering an opportunity to further rationalise tax rates and increase the tax base.
He hinted at some relief for taxpayers as he made a case for rationalisation of direct tax structure considering the fact that "the tax base has expanded". "The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has brought about total change in the tax structure of indirect taxes within the country," Jaitley said.
Jaitley's remarks come days after the central government announced that the GST collections had picked up after falling for two straight months and touched Rs 86,703 crore in December compared with Rs 80,808 crore in November.