The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has asked officials not to resort to a penal provision in cases where the additional demand of duty/tax is based on a difference of opinion regarding interpretation of law, in cases of excise duty evasion.
However, the CBEC has doubled the limit of excise duty evasion required for arrest and prosecution of the accused to Rs 2 crore. Keeping in view the recent statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to handle cases of tax collection carefully, the CBEC’s move should come as a relief to many small businessess.
“It has been decided to revise the monetary limit for arrest and prosecution in Central Excise to maintain uniformity of practice in central excise and service tax,” the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) said in an order.
The monetary limit for excise related offences was set at Rs 1 crore in October 2015. “Since an arrest impinges on the personal liberty of an individual, this power should be exercised with great responsibility and caution and only after a careful examination of the legal and factual aspects,” the authority said in a statement.
Arrest in case of service tax violations was introduced from May 10, 2013. Subsequent amendments have limited the possibility of arrest “only if a person collects any amount as service tax but fails to pay the amount collected to the credit of the Central Government beyond the period of six months from the date on which such payment becomes due and the amount exceeds Rs 2 crore.”
The Commissioner has also been instructed to go ahead with the arrest only if it is determined that the alleged offender is likely to hamper the course of further investigation by his unrestricted movement and is likely to tamper with evidence or intimidate or influence witnesses, states the order.