Sending out a strong message to tax offenders, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday said the Revenue Department will go after the 12 lakh service tax assesses who had stopped filing their service tax returns and exuded confidence that the economic growth will pick up and the country will grow at around 6 per cent.

Inaugurating the 28th conference of Chief Commissioners and Director Generals of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in New Delhi on Wednesday, Mr. Chidambaram said the Department will be targeting the 12 lakh non-filers and stop-filers of service tax.

Speaking to reporters after the conference, the Finance Minister expressed confidence that the economy was expected to grow by about 6 per cent and the Revenue Department will be able to achieve the target of 19 per cent increase in indirect tax collection in the current fiscal over the realisation in 2012-13.

“In 2012-13, we achieved 21 per cent increase over the previous year's collection. With the economy expected to grow certainly higher than 5 per cent — I think with growth close to six per cent — we should be able to collect 19 per cent more than last year,’’ he added.

Mr. Chidambaram said he had told the tax officials that revenue mobilisation is the most important task of the department and they should achieve the tax collection target. Service tax accounts for one-third of the total indirect tax collection in the country and the government expects to raise Rs. 1.8 lakh crore through the levy this fiscal.

The Finance Ministry has fixed indirect and direct tax collections at Rs. 5.65 lakh crore for 2013-14. The Ministry had collected Rs 4.73 lakh crore as indirect taxes during 2012-13.

Mr. Chidambaram said assessees were yet to get used to paying service tax, which is a new levy but the fastest growing tax. Starting with the 4 per cent of the total indirect taxes collected, the service tax now occupies one-third space of the total tax collected. “Assessees are used to the idea of paying excise duty but they don't realise that that service tax is only the 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 I pay service tax? Why should the beauty parlour pay service tax? People must get to the idea that GDP is made up of goods and services,’’ he remarked.

He said assessees are taking time to adjust to the format of negative list of service tax, which was introduced last year. “Given all this, it is not surprising that non-filers and stop-filers have mounted in service tax. The number exceeds 12 lakh or so. We are targeting them.’’

Mr. Chidambaram also informed that the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on Goods and Service Tax (GST) will elect its new chairman at their meeting, which will be held on July 22. The post has been lying vacant since June 17 when Bihar Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi resigned following the JD(U)-BJP  split.

“The Empowered Committee will elect one when we meet on the 22nd. It is for them to elect a candidate from among themselves,’’ he said.

The GST Bill, which was introduced in Parliament in 2010, is currently being vetted by the Standing Committee on Finance. After the committee submits its report, the states and the Centre will together finalise the draft and bring it back to Parliament.

The proposed GST will bring in a common tax regime for goods and services by subsuming most indirect taxes, and is expected to help increase revenue mop ups.

More In: National | News | Economy | Business