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LAST MONTH FOR SERVICE TAX VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE ENCOURAGEMENT SCHEME, 2013 (VCES)

Readers, this is last month to take the opportunity under VCES (Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme). Through this scheme government wants to act tough for the culprits & soft towards the victims, it’s a scheme allowing 5 years limit to evict tax. Following are some highlights of this scheme –

- VCES is a onetime scheme.

- It’s  a significant step to pay outstanding service tax dues

- Basically an attractive scheme for the defaulters and a despite to honest tax payers

- In 2013 a circular scheme has been notified in which doubts were considered

- A motivational scheme to the defaulters encouraging them to pay their outstanding dues

- One time amnesty to be provided by way of waiver of interest and penalty and Immunity from prosecution

- To provide opportunity to stop filers, Non-filers or Non-registrants or Service providers who have not disclosed true liability in the returns filed by them during the period from October 2007 to December 2012

There are total 17 lakh assesses liable to pay tax but only 7 lakh actually pay. To be eligible for VCES 2013 persons should have tax dues to pay. This scheme can be paid in 2 installments and last date to pay is 31st  December, 2014. One aspect of this scheme is that it’s somehow creating more culprits than existing. This may sound a little weird but it’s true as because of such scheme the honest tax payers who have been paying tax so sincerely are disappointed and have questions evolving like if this benefit was prevailing than why did they have to pay tax with such honesty but according to the government they want to give the culprits a chance and receive all the balance outstanding dues. Many amendments have been made in 2004 there existed an EXTRA ORDINARY TAX PAYOUT SCHEME, in 2008 there prevailed a SERVICE TAX DISPUTE SCHEME and recently in 2013 the government has come up with the VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE ENCOURAGEMENT    SCHEME, 2013 (VCES).

In this scheme all the defaulters whose dues are outstanding from OCT 2007 to DEC 2012 are eligible to opt for this scheme. It also provides total immunity from interest, penalty & procedures for all those payers paying 50% of their total tax dues before DEC 2013 & the 2ND installment of the remaining 50% to be paid by JUNE 2014. Assesses paying after JUNE 2014 are liable to pay interest there on. Tax is to be paid in cash and not credit. Assesses have to pay the gross amount. Cenvat credit available during the period can be availed in future, so it’s more like a cash flow issue. Under VCES no refund is given to buyer.  Late filing fee is not payable if you are eligible for the scheme.

The Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) has come into effect from 10.5.2013. Some of the issues raised with reference to the Scheme have been clarified by the Board vide circular No. 169/4/2013-ST, dated 13.5.2013.  Subsequently, references have been received by the Board seeking further clarifications as regards the scope and applicability of the Scheme.

The legal provisions relevant to this scheme are stated as under:

FINANCE ACT, 2013

CHAPTER VI: Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme, 2013

- Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Rules, 2013

- BOARD’S CIRCULAR NOs.

169/4/2013-ST dated 13.05.13 &

170/5/2013-ST dated 08.08.13.

Who can make declaration of Tax dues under the Service Tax VCES, 2013?

ELIGIBILITY

Any person may declare his tax due in respect of which no notice or an order of determination under section 72 or section 73 or section 73A has been issued or made

What is meant by tax dues?

- Service tax due or payable under the Finance Act or any other amount due or payable under Section73A thereof.

- Including the Cess payable under any other Act for the time in force.

- Payable for the period beginning from the 1st October, 2007 to December 31, 2012.

But not paid as on 1st March, 2013

Following persons are not eligible to make tax dues:

Any person who has filed return and disclosed his true liability but has not paid the disclosed amount of Service Tax.

The following declarations are liable for rejections by the rejection by designated authority:

Declaration made by Person:

Audit has been initiated and such inquiry, investigation or audit is pending as on the 1st day of March,2013, then the designated authority shall-

- By an order, and

- for reasons to be recorded in writing,

- reject such declaration.

PROCEDURE FOR MAKING DECLARATION AND PAYMENT OF TAX DUES

Step 1: Registration

Step 2: Submission of Declaration

Step 3: Acknowledgment of Declaration

Step 4: Payment

Step 5: Acknowledgement of Discharge

Step 1: Registration

Any person, who wishes to make a declaration under the Scheme, shall, if not already registered, take registration.

Website: www.aces.gov.in

Step 2: Submission of Declaration

- Submit a declaration to the designated authority.

- on or before the 31st day of December, 2013

- In Form VCES-1.

Step 3: Acknowledgment of Declaration

- The designated authority shall acknowledge the declaration

- In form VCES -2.

- Within seven working days from the date of receipt of declaration.

Step 4: Payment

- The declarant shall- On or before the 31st day of December, 2013,

- pay not less than 50%, of the tax dues so declared and

- Submit proof of such payment to the designated authority.

- Remaining tax dues - on or before the 30th day of June, 2014.  

- If not paid then… along with interest thereon by 31.12.2014 for the period of delay starting from 1st day of July, 2014

- Any service tax which becomes due or payable by the declarant for the month of January, 2013 and subsequent months shall be paid by him in accordance with the provisions of the Chapter along with interest, if any, for delay.

- Furnish details of payment made from time to time along with a copy of acknowledgement issued to him.

- Utilization of CENVAT Credit not allowed for payment of dues

Step 5: Acknowledgement of Discharge

- On furnishing the details of full payment of declared tax dues and the interest, if any-

- The designated authority shall issue an acknowledgement of discharge of such dues to the declarant in Form VCES-3.

The following issues have been examined and clarifications thereto are as follows:

ISSUE- 1)

Whether the communications, wherein department has sought information of roving nature from potential taxpayer regarding their business activities without seeking any documents from such person or calling for his presence, while quoting the authority of section 14 of the Central Excise Act, 1944, would attract the provision of section 106 (2) (a)?

CLARIFICATION-

Attention is invited to clarification issued at S. No. 4 of the circular No. 169/4/2013–ST, dated 13.5.2013, as regards the scope of section 106 (2) (a) of the Finance Act, 2013, wherein it has been clarified that the provision of section 106 (2)(a)(iii) shall be attracted only in such cases where accounts, documents or other evidence are requisitioned by the authorized officer from the declarant under the authority of a statutory provision.

A communication of the nature as mentioned in the previous column would not attract the provision of section 106 (2)(a) even though the authority of section 14 of the Central Excise Act may have been quoted therein.

ISSUE- 2)

An assessee has two units at two different locations, say Mumbai and Ahmadabad. Both are separately registered.  The Mumbai unit has received a Show Cause Notice for non-payment of tax on a revenue stream but the Ahmadabad unit has not.  Whether the Ahmadabad unit is eligible for VCES? An assessee has two units at two different locations, say Mumbai and Ahmadabad. Both are separately registered.  The Mumbai unit has received a Show Cause Notice for non-payment of tax on a revenue stream but the Ahmadabad unit has not.  Whether the Ahmadabad unit is eligible for VCES?

CLARIFICATION-

Two separate service tax registrations are two distinct assessees for the purposes of service tax levy. Therefore, eligibility for availing of the Scheme is to be determined accordingly. The unit that has not been issued a show cause notice shall be eligible to make a declaration under the Scheme.

ISSUE- 3)

Whether a declaration can be made under the Scheme in respect of CENVAT credit wrongly utilized for payment of service tax? 

CLARIFICATION-

Any service tax that has been paid utilizing the irregular credit, amounts to non-payment of service tax. Therefore such service tax amount is covered under the definition of “tax dues”.

ISSUE- 4)

Whether a party, against whom an inquiry, investigation or audit has been initiated after 1.3.2013 (the cutoff date) can make a declaration under the Scheme?

CLARIFICATION-

Yes. There is no bar from filing of declaration in such cases.

ISSUE- 5)

There was a default and a Show Cause Notice was issued for the period prior to the period covered by the Scheme, i.e. before Oct 2007. Whether declaration can be filed for default on the same issue for the subsequent period?

CLARIFICATION-

In the context of the Scheme, the relevant period is from Oct 2007 to Dec 2012. Therefore, the 2ndproviso to section 106 (1) shall be attracted only in such cases where a show cause notice or order of determination has been issued for the period from Oct 2007 to Dec 2012. Accordingly, issuance of a show cause notice or order of determination for any period prior to Oct 2007, on an issue, would not make a person ineligible to make a declaration under the Scheme on the same issue for the period covered by the Scheme.    Therefore, declaration can be made under VCES.

ISSUE- 6)

In a case where the assessee has been audited and an audit Para has been issued, whether the assessee can declare liability on an issue which is not a part of the audit Para, under the VCES 2013?

CLARIFICATION-

Yes, declarant can declare the “tax dues” concerning an issue which is not a part of the audit Para. 

ISSUE- 7)

Whether a person, who has paid service tax for a particular period but failed to file return, can take the benefit of VCES Scheme so as to avoid payment of penalty for non- filing of return?

CLARIFICATION-

under VCES a declaration can be made only in respect of “tax dues”. A case where no tax is pending, but return has not been filed, does not come under the ambit of the Scheme. However, rule 7C of the Service Tax Rules provides for waiver of penalty in deserving cases where return has not been filed and, in such cases, the assessee may seek relief under rule 7C.

ISSUE- 8)

A person has made part payment of his ‘tax dues’ on any issue before the scheme was notified and makes the declaration under VCES for the remaining part of the tax dues. Will he be entitled to the benefit of non-payment of interest/penalty on the tax dues paid by him outside the VCES, i.e., (amount paid prior to VCES)?

CLARIFICATION-

No the immunity from interest and penalty is only for “tax dues” declared under VCES.

If any “tax dues” have been paid prior to the enactment of the scheme, any liability of interest or penalty thereon shall be adjudicated as per the provisions of Chapter V of the Finance Act, 1994 and paid accordingly.

ISSUE- 9)

Whether an assessee, who, during a part of the period covered by the Scheme, is in dispute on an issue with the department under an erstwhile provision of law, can declare his liability under the amended provisions, while continuing to litigate the outstanding liability under the erstwhile provision on the issue? 

CLARIFICATION-

In terms of the second proviso to section 106 (1), where a notice or order of determination has been issued to a person in respect of any issue, no declaration shall be made by such person  in respect of “tax dues” on the same issue for subsequent period. Therefore, if an issue is being litigated for a part of the period covered by the Scheme, i.e., Oct, 2007 to Dec 2012, no declaration can be filed under VCES in terms of the said provision on the same issue for the subsequent period.

ISSUE- 10)

Whether upon filing a declaration a declarant realizes that the declaration filed by him was incorrect by mistake? Can he file an amended declaration?

CLARIFICATION-

The declarant is expected to declare his tax dues correctly. In case the mistake is discovered suo-moto by the declarant himself, he may approach the designated authority, who, after taking into account the overall facts of the case may allow amendments to be made in the declaration, provided that the amended declaration is furnished by declarant before the cut off date for filing of declaration, i.e., 31.12.2013.

ISSUE- 11)

What is the consequence if the designated authority does not issue an acknowledgement within seven working days of filing of declaration? Whether the declarant can start making payment of the tax dues even if acknowledgement is not issued?

CLARIFICATION-

Department would ensure that the acknowledgement is issued in seven working days from the date of filing of the declaration.  It may however be noted that payment of tax dues under the Scheme is not linked to the issuance of an acknowledgement. The declarant can pay tax dues even before the acknowledgement is issued by the department.

ISSUE- 12)

Whether declarant will be given an opportunity to be heard and explain his cases before the rejection of a declaration under section 106(2) by the designated authority?

CLARIFICATION-

Yes. In terms of  section 106 (2) of the Finance Act, 2013, the designated authority shall, by an order, and for reasons to be recorded in writing, reject a declaration if any inquiry/investigation or audit was pending against the declarant as on the cutoff date, i.e., 1.3.2013.  An order under this section shall be passed following the principles of natural justice.

To allay any apprehension of undue delays and uncertainty, it is clarified that the designated authority, if he has reasons to believe that the declaration is covered by section 106 (2), shall give a notice of intention to reject the declaration within 30 days of the date of filing of the declaration stating the reasons for the intention to reject the declaration. For declarations already filed, the said period of 30 days would apply from the date of this circular. 

The declarant shall be given an opportunity to be heard before any order is passed by the designated authority.

ISSUE- 13)

What is the appeal mechanism against the order of the designated authority whereby he rejects the declaration under section 106 (2) of the Finance Act, 2013?

CLARIFICATION

The Scheme does not have a statutory provision for filing of appeal against the order for rejection of declaration under section 106 (2) by the designated authority.

ISSUE- 14)

A declarant pays a certain amount under the Scheme and subsequently his declaration is rejected. Would the amount so paid by him be adjusted against his liability that may be determined by the department?

CLARIFICATION-

The Scheme does not have a statutory provision for filing of appeal against the order for rejection of declaration under section 106 (2) by the designated authority.

ISSUE- 15)

Section 111 prescribes that where the Commissioner of Central Excise has reasons to believe that the declaration made by the declarant was ‘substantially false’, he may serve a notice on the declarant in respect of such declaration. However, what constitutes a ‘substantially false’ declaration has not been specified.

CLARIFICATION-

The Commissioner would, in the overall facts of the case, taking into account the reasons he has to believe, take a judicious view as to whether a declaration is ‘substantially false’. It is not feasible to define the term “substantially false” in precise terms.  The proceeding under section 111 would be initiated in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

To illustrate, a declarant has declared his “tax dues” as Rs 25 lakh. However, Commissioner has specific information that declaration has been made only for part liability, and the actual “tax dues”   are Rs 50 lakh. This declaration would fall in the category of “substantially false”.  This example is only illustrative.

ISSUE- 16)

What is the consequence if a declarant fails to pay at least 50% of declared amount of tax dues by the 31st Dec 2013?

CLARIFICATION-

One of the conditions of the Scheme [section 107 (3)] is that the declarant shall pay at least an amount equal to 50% of the declared tax dues under the Scheme, on or before the 31.12.2013. Therefore, if the declarant fails to pay at least 50% of the declared tax dues by 31st Dec, 2013, he would not be eligible to avail of the benefit of the scheme.

ISSUE- 17)

Whether the CENVAT credit is admissible on the inputs/input services used for provision of output service in respect of which declaration has been made under VCES for payment of any tax liability outside the VCES?

CLARIFICATION-

The admissibility of CENVAT credit on any inputs and input services used for provision of output service in respect of which declaration has been made shall continue to be governed by the provisions of the Cenvat Credit Rules, 2004.

ISSUE- 18)

(a) Whether the tax dues amount paid under VCES would be eligible as CENVAT credit to the recipient of service under a supplementary invoice?

(b) Whether cenvat credit would be admissible to the person who pays tax dues under VCES as service recipient under reverse charge mechanism?

CLARIFICATION-

Rule 6(2) of the Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Rules, 2013, prescribes that CENVAT credit cannot be utilized for payment of “tax dues” under the Scheme. Except this condition, all issues relating to admissibility of CENVAT credit are to be determined in terms of the provisions of the Cenvat Credit Rules.

As regards admissibility of CENVAT credit in situations covered under part (a) and (b), attention is invited to rule 9(1)(bb) and 9(1)(e)  respectively of the Cenvat Credit Rules.

ISSUE- 19)

In terms of section 106 (2)(b), if a declaration made by a person against whom an audit has been initiated and where such audit is pending, then the designated authority shall by an order and for reasons to be recorded in writing, reject such declaration. As the audit process may involve several stages, it may be indicated as to what event would constitute,-

(i) Initiation of audit; and

(ii) Culmination of audit.

CLARIFICATION-

Initiation of audit: For the purposes of VCES, the date of the visit of auditors to the unit of the taxpayer would be taken as the date of initiation of audit. A register is maintained of all visits for audit purposes.

Culmination of audit: The audit process may culminate in any of the following manner.-

(i) Closure of audit file if no discrepancy is found in audit;

(ii) Closure of audit Para by the Monitoring Committee Meeting (MCM);

(iii) Approval of audit Para by MCM and payment of amount involved therein by the party in terms of the provisions of the Finance Act, 1994;

(iv) Approval of audit Para by MCM, and issuance of SCN, if party does not agree to the Para so raised.

The audit culminates at a point when the audit paras raised are settled in any manner as stated above.

The pendency of audit as on 1.3.2013 means an audit that has been initiated before 1.3.2013 but has not culminated as on 1.3.2013. 

Benefits of the Scheme:

1. IMMUNITY FROM PENALTY, INTEREST AND OTHER PROCEEDING

The declarant, upon payment of the tax dues and the interest, if any, shall get immunity from penalty, interest or any other proceeding under the Chapter.

2. Declaration to be Conclusive

(2) Subject to the provisions of section 111, a declaration shall become conclusive upon issuance of acknowledgement of discharge and no matter shall be reopened thereafter in any proceedings under the Chapter before any authority or court relating to the period covered by such declaration.

Steps For Making Declaration

CBEC’s clarifications on certain apprehension of the Trade and public at large.

Whether a person who has not obtained service tax registration so far can make a declaration under VCES?   

Any person who has tax dues to declare can make a declaration in terms of the provisions of VCES. If such person does not already have a service tax registration he will be required to take registration before making such declaration.    

Whether a declarant shall get immunity from payment of late fee/penalty for having not taken registration earlier or not filed the return or for delay in filing of return.

Yes. It has been provided in VCES that, beside interest and penalty, immunity would also be available from any other proceeding under the Finance Act, 1994 and Rules made there under.          

Whether an assessee to whom show cause notice or order of determination has been issued can file declaration in respect of tax dues which are not covered by such SCN or order of determination?            

In terms of section 106 (1) of the Finance Act, 2013 and second proviso thereto, the tax dues in respect of which any show cause notice or order of determination under section 72, section 73 or section 73A has been issued or which pertains to the same issue for the subsequent period are excluded from the ambit of the Scheme. Any other tax dues could be declared under the Scheme subject to the other provisions of the Scheme.

What is the scope of section 106 (2)(a)(iii)?

Whether a communication from department seeking general information from the declarant would lead to invoking of section 106 (2) (a)(iii) for rejection of declaration under the said section?

- Section 106 (2) (a)(iii) of the Finance Act, 2013 provides for rejection of declaration if such declaration is made by a person against whom an inquiry or investigation in respect of service tax not levied or not paid or short-levied or short paid, has been initiated by way of requiring production of accounts, documents or other evidence under the chapter or the rules made there under, and such inquiry or investigation is pending as on the 1st day of March, 2013.    

The relevant provisions, beside section 14 of the Central Excise Act as made applicable to service tax vide section 83 of the Finance Act,1994, under which accounts, documents or other evidences can be requisitioned by the Central Excise Officer for the purposes of inquiry or investigation, are as follows,-

(i) Section 72 of the Act envisages requisition of documents and evidences by the Central Excise Officer if any person liable to pay service tax fails to furnish the return or having made a return fails to assess the tax in accordance with the provision of the Chapter or rules made there under.

(ii) Rule 5A of the Service Tax Rules, 1994 prescribes for requisition of specified documents by an officer authorized by the Commissioner for the purposes specified therein.

The provision of section 106 (2)(a)(iii) shall be attracted only in such cases where accounts, documents or other evidences are requisitioned by the authorized officer from the declarant under the authority of any of the above stated statutory provisions and the inquiry so initiated against the declarant is pending as on the 1st day of March, 2013.

No other communication from the department would attract the provisions of section 106 (2)(a)(iii) and thus would not lead to rejection of the declaration.

The following are the failures to make declaration:

- Where the Commissioner has reasons to believe that the declaration under this Scheme was substantially false, he may, serve notice on the declarant requiring him to show cause why he should not pay the tax dues not paid or short-paid.

-  No action shall be taken after the expiry of one year from the date of declaration.

Questions regarding refund of the amount have also been raised to which it is stated as under;

Any amount paid in pursuance of a declaration made under the scheme shall not be refundable under any circumstances.

What if the tax dues are declared but not paid:

Where the declarant fails to pay the tax dues, either fully or in part, as declared by him- such dues along with interest thereon shall be recovered.

FOR QUERIES WRITE TO Chirag_cha@yahoo.com or Chirag@cachauhan.in

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