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The Income Tax department has started countrywide raids against petrol pump owners and LPG distributors for alleged conversion of banned Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by way of currency deposits in excess of actual sales during the demonetisation period. Armed with notices under Section 133A of the IT Act, the inspectors are combing through cash book of pump owners to ascertain if sales corresponded to the deposits made during the nearly month-long period when scrapped currencies were allowed for purchasing fuels until December 3. Any excesses, even though claimed by the pump owner or LPG distributor to be outstanding debts received during the period, is being booked as illegal on the spot with operators forced to issue cheque for the same amount to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana with tax and penalty of 49.90 per cent.
IT Officers confirmed that “surveys” — not raids — were being conducted throughout the country at the business premises of the pump owners and LPG distributors since March 6.
“The surveys so far have shown that on an average, pump owners deposited in excess of 15 percent of the sales collections,” said an IT Commissioner. He said that further scrutiny was on with data being sought from state-run oil marketing companies to assess if the sales matched with the fuels purchased from the OMCs.
An IT survey last month revealed that fuel sellers deposited 20 percent more cash than their sales during the grace period until December 2 leading to a conclusion that some of them may have indulged in conversion of unaccounted cash held in high-value demonetised currencies.
Petrol and CNG pumps were allowed to accept Rs 500 notes till December 2 with payment for LPG cylinders continued to be exempted even after that date. On November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender from midnight.
In February, the government launched Operation Clean Money whereby it sent emails and SMS to 18 lakh individuals who had deposited more than Rs 5 lakh, but the same didn’t correspond to their income profile or previous income tax returns.