The response to the ‘Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) 2013’ has been lukewarm in the Madurai region with just 35 people having chosen to benefit from the scheme since its introduction in May this year, said Faheem Ahmed, Commissioner of Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax, Madurai.

Addressing a VCES awareness meet conducted at the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNCCI) in Madurai on Thursday, he said though the 35 people had declared service tax dues to the tune of Rs.8.15 crore, the amount paid so far was only Rs.23 lakh. On the other hand, 141 people had declared dues to the tune of Rs.10 crore in Salem region and paid more than Rs.6 crore.

All services that are not part of a negative list notified by the Centre last year attract service tax.

The VCES provides for self-declaration and payment of service tax dues from October 1, 2007, to December 31, 2012, with incentives such as exemption from payment of interest and penalty. The tax declarant under the scheme will also be exonerated from being prosecuted under criminal law. Those willing to benefit under the scheme should declare their dues by December 31 this year and pay 50 per cent of the amount. The rest could be paid without interest by June 30, 2014, and with interest by December 31, 2014.

Stating that just 40 more days were left for service providers to benefit from the scheme, Mr.Ahmed urged tax payers to contact the Central Excise office with their declarations.

“Nobody in my office will ask you any question. Your declarations will not be subjected to any kind of scrutiny and you will not be harassed in any way if you comply with the requirements of the VCES. We will assume that whatever you declare is a truthful declaration and try to issue you the discharge certificates as soon as possible,” he told the gathering.

He warned that service tax evaders would have to shell out Rs.3 for every Rs.1 of tax evaded by them if his department cracks down on them. “Not only that, you also stand the chance of getting arrested. And once we come to your place, the Income Tax Department, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and even the Enforcement Directorate may knock on your door since we share information among us,” he said.

Joint Commissioner A.S. Meenalochani said the VCES was a golden opportunity which the service providers could not afford to miss.

Chamber’s senior president S. Rethinavelu said many did not even know whether the services offered by them attracted service tax or not.

“The number of service tax payers is low not because of ill intentions to evade but because of a lack of awareness,” he said.

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