Helpdesk set up to assist e-filing of service tax returns
October 5, 2010
The authorities are trying to iron out the chinks in the current electronic tax payment mechanism; a dedicated toll-free number has also been provided for resolving problems
The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) is setting up a new helpdesk for addressing the issues faced by assessees while filing service tax returns online. According to Dr Dhananjay Samant, director and chief economist, Indian Merchants’ Chamber, “The new helpdesk information should be released in one or two weeks. In the meantime assessees finding any difficulty in using the Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax (ACES) application can seek help of the ACES service desk by sending an email to email@example.com or calling up (the) national toll-free number 1800 425 4251 on any working day from Monday to Friday between 9 AM and 7 PM.”
Dr Samant was speaking after an interactive meeting on service tax organised by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) and the Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society (BCA) with B Ravichandran and KK Sharma, Commissioners of Service Tax, Mumbai.
The meeting covered administrative and other issues concerning service tax arising from recent amendments and notifications, including in particular, issues and difficulties relating to e-filing and e-payments. Assessees are facing problems, but the department is willing to extend all the help to move towards e-governance.
Dr Samant told Moneylife, “KC Johny or Rishi Goel will be the contact persons at the Churchgate (south Mumbai) office of CBEC.”
CBEC had issued Notification No. 01/2010-Service Tax, dated 19 February 2010, making e-filing of service tax return (ST-3) mandatory, effective from 1 April 2010 for assessees who have paid total service tax of Rs10 lakh or more (including the amount of tax paid by utilisation of CENVAT credit) in the preceding financial year. Such assessees would have to file the half-yearly return (ST-3), electronically under sub-rule (2) of Rule 7 of the Service Tax Rules, 1994 and deposit the service tax liable to be paid, electronically, through Internet banking.
Even though 97% of payments are electronically carried out, only 1% of ST-3 returns are filed electronically. ST-3 returns are due from 1st October to 25th October. There are over 1.5 lakh registered service tax assessees of which more than 80,000 are active assessees. Most of the taxpayers face problems while filing their tax at the last minute. This practice leads to overloading of the system at the tax authorities’ end and ultimately results in technical glitches. The department concurs that there are a few technical snags and there will be teething problems till the systems mature like the excise e-filing system that is working fine now.
The facility of e-filing of returns on the website (http://exciseandservicetax.nic.in), as provided in the CBEC Circular No.791/24/2004-CX. dated 1.6.2004, has been withdrawn and the assessees are required to file their returns online or by uploading the downloadable off-line return utilities to the new ACES website (http://www.aces.gov.in).
Further, to make it easy for the assessees to file returns in ACES, an XML schema has been hosted on the ACES website. By suitably modifying their own software application and using this schema the assessees can also generate an up-loadable form of return directly from their own database without the need to make a fresh data entry. Details for e-filing of returns are available in the ‘Help Section’ of this website under ‘Learning Management Software’ (LMS), ‘User Manual’ and FAQs and in the ‘Download Section’.
There were non-technical issues like inability to get filing of an e-acknowledgement if there was some missing/invalid data. The request was to provide e-acknowledgement so that it protected assessees from late filing. It is likely the department will consider this request. The other request was to allow 90 days from due date instead of filing date to submit any missing/invalid data. It is unlikely the department will allow the same as 90 days was considered a long enough period for any correction to e-filing.
There are issues relating to lack of identification for valid access to the system. Some assessees have not provided basic information like email addresses and phone numbers that the department requests from assessees. There are issues arising from system migration from SAP software to Wipro. There are cases where the branch information was not added to SAP software and hence was missing in the new system. The assessees having missing branch information on the new system are requested to submit branch address proof. There are issues like while deletion of a particular category of service, other categories except for the last also get deleted.
Department officials questioned why assessees registered for a particular category that was not related to their business. Assessees are requested to enter ‘Nil’ if no service was rendered for a particular category. The technical problem of deletion of categories will be looked after by the department, officials said. — Raj Pradhan