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Settlers refuse to pay tax

- 400 business families in Sikkim demand exemption

Gangtok, Nov. 26: Around 400 business families in the state have turned down a request by the income tax department to file their returns and have demanded the same tax exemption which applies to people holding Sikkim subject certificates.

The Chogyal dynasty had issued the Sikkim subject certificates to the people living in Sikkim in 1961 under the Sikkim Subject Regulation Act of 1961.

The 400 business families, also known as “old settlers” had come to the state before 1975, the year Sikkim merged with India, but don’t possess Sikkim subject certificates.

They allege discrimination and demand a tax exemption similar to the one enjoyed by the certificate holders.

“The new income tax commissioner in Siliguri, Subrato Sarkar, had convened a meeting with the old settlers in Gangtok last week. Alleging discrimination, they have refused to file their income tax returns,” said the general secretary of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce, Kailash Agarwal.

Sikkim was a part of the Chogyal Dynasty and became a part of India on April 26, 1975.

The central government had exempted Sikkim subject holders from paying income tax in 2008 after the amendment bill was passed in the Finance Act by the Parliament based on the state government’s request .

“We have been raising the matter with the central government on the income tax evasion to the old settlers. But so far, there have been no response. We will not file the IT returns,” said Agarwal.

“There are 400 families which have come to Sikkim before 1975. The list was prepared on the basis of government documents such as electricity bill, driving licence and trade licences” he added.

“I have filed a petition with the Rajya Sabha Committee in 2008 and the hearing on the matter is still pending” said Prem Goyal, the chief co-ordinator of Nagrik Sangarsh Samity.

“We are only the implementing agency and would comply with the income tax rules. We will again serve notices on those who are yet to file their returns” said an official source.

The Sikkim Chamber of Commerce has also requested the income tax department to conduct sensitisation workshops for those people who need to file their returns.