Task Force to review sales tax collection

NEW DELHI OCT. 31. Faced with the prospects of a serious financial crunch due to continued negative growth in the area of revenue collections, especially the sales tax, the Delhi Government has decided to constitute a Task Force to review the collections and growth on a weekly basis. The Task Force, likely to be headed by the Finance Minister, Mahinder Singh Saathi, will keep a close watch on the movement of revenue and even suggest ways and means to retrieve the situation.

The Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, who has been reviewing the progress of all the important Departments personally, has decided to take charge of the situation. "I have taken a serious view of the continued stagnancy in the revenue collections. This kind of a situation is unacceptable and I have asked the Finance Minister to have a weekly review of the collections,'' Ms. Dikshit told The Hindu.

Ms.Dikshit said the Delhi Government, which had collected record revenue during the recent years, should not find it difficult to achieve the target and ruled out revising the sales tax collection target of Rs. 4,300 crores. "They have set a target which is both realistic and achievable. There is no question of reviewing it at this point of time. Instead of looking at imposing more taxation measures, the Departments should explore the areas where they are falling short. They should try to look at the reasons for the downfall. It cannot be recession alone, there is something more to it,'' she asserted.

The Chief Minister, upset with the manner in which things were being handled by the officials of the revenue collecting departments at various levels, also held a prolonged meeting with the Finance Minister and the Chief Secretary, Shailja Chandra, to discuss the situation. It is learnt that Ms. Dikshit has directed Mr. Saathi to ensure that all the Departments, connected with revenue, submit a weekly instead of a monthly report on the revenue collections.

Ms. Dikshit is also reportedly not happy with the performance of the officials in generating revenue with regard to the Works Contract Act and the recently amended Stamp Duty Act. The collections under these two heads have not been up to the mark and more efforts at the field level are required to set right the situation, she added.

The Chief Minister has asked Mr. Saathi to hold a meeting every Saturday to take stock of the situation and take corrective measures immediately, if required. "The Principal Secretary (Finance), Satish Chandra, now no longer holds the additional charge of PWD. He can now concentrate on the revenue front and ensure the required growth. I see no reason for decline in revenue when all the other States are witnessing a growth of 14 to 17 per cent,'' Ms. Dikshit remarked. The Chief Minister is also believed to have told Mr. Saathi to take to task all those officials who are not putting in their best.

Ms. Dikshit added that she had made it very clear that undue harassment of the traders and businessmen would not be tolerated. The effort to generate revenue should be done by plugging loopholes and clearing the past litigations.

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