AHEAD OF Lok Sabha polls, the state government on Wednesday offered an amnesty to merchants and traders previously assessed for sales tax evasion. The state Cabinet sanctioned a proposal in this regard.
Officials said the policy will target over 1 lakh merchants and traders, who would now have to own up to their previous undeclared earnings and unpaid tax to avoid penalties and interest on tax dues.
If disclosures made by the state in the 2018-19 budget document are any indication, over Rs 60,000 crore in public money is riding on this amnesty. While the VAT regime has been subsumed in the GST, a high incidence of sales tax revenues raised but not realised has the state’s fiscal managers worried.
The amnesty will be applicable for all tax dues raised before June 30, 2017, said officials. It will have two components — one for tax arrears before March 31, 2010 and another for arrears in tax amounts raised thereafter. The defaulting merchants and traders will have the option to pay the amount in arrears in two installments with the state announcing that the scheme will be implemented in two phases.
Accordingly, those paying up to 50 per cent of the principal dues in the first phase can avail a 50 per cent waiver in interest and penalties. “It is all about encouraging as many people as possible to come into the system and regularise their affairs,” said a senior official. He added, “The pending recoveries of the old system are also putting additional burden on the staff, which is now focussing on effective implementation of the GST.”
The Opposition, meanwhile, slammed the latest amnesty as nothing but an “all carrot policy” to woo traders ahead of the polls. A legislation in this regard would be tabled during the upcoming Budget Session of the state Legislature.
Meanwhile, in a contentious move, the Fadnavis government also decided to significantly reduce penalties for delays in construction on government lands leased to individuals, societies and trusts for buildable purposes.
While norms require a lessee to complete the construction work within three years of allotment, a Comptroller and Auditor General Report (CAG) tabled during the previous Prithviraj Chavan regime had pointed out that several allottees, with most of them being trusts
controlled by top politicians, had violated this norm.
After coming to office, the Fadnavis government had last year rolled out a new policy where such violations were to be regularised on payment of penalties ranging from 2 to 10 per cent of the ready reckoner (RR) values (market values as determined by the government) of the plot depending on the extent of delay.
The Cabinet on Wednesday slashed this penalty amount, which will now be ranging between 0.5 to 2.5 per cent of the RR values.
Age of retirement
The government has decided to make 60 years as the age of retirement in all government and government-aided colleges, along with Babasaheb Ambedkar University and Chemistry Institutes that is under the directorate of technical education. The Cabinet also approved Rs 10 crore as exgratia for 1,124 workers of the Nagpur Weavers’ Cooperative Mill.
The Cabinet has given approval to provide independent grant to army officers and jawans who have won more than one medal for bravery or service. Officials said, till now, the grant was given for the highest medal. The Cabinet has increased nutrition allowance for students of government-aided institutions. Officials said government-aided students’ hostels, residential schools, old age homes, divyang and children would be benefit from it.