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Leash on sales tax inspector raj

Calcutta, Feb. 17: Finance minister Amit Mitra today simplified value-added tax registration and raised the exemption limit for professional tax for those belonging to economically weaker sections.

The budget also aimed at putting an end to inspector raj to check reported harassment of registered dealers by sales tax officials. Mitra said sales tax officials would take permission from a senior officer after mentioning the need for the visit.

“Sir, to further simplify VAT registration, I propose to introduce automatic registration of a dealer by filing of online application. I also propose to do away with the proof of submission of sale invoices of minimum Rs 50,000 for applying for VAT registration,” Mitra said in his budget speech.

Addressing complaints of various trade agencies against sale tax officials, the finance minister added: “Sir, there are complaints from trade agencies regarding random and unauthorised visits by sales tax officials. To make the system transparent, I propose that no sales tax official posted at the charge office shall visit any registered dealer without a written instruction from the concerned charge officer showing the reason for the visit.”

The state also proposed to introduce a large tax-payer unit to provide better services to big tax-paying dealers. There will be a single nodal officer for most of the services and for statutory compliance with regard to VAT, sales tax, central sales tax, professional tax and entry tax.

On professional tax, several structural changes were announced.

The budget proposed that salaried individuals earning up to Rs 8,500 a month would not have to pay any professional tax. The earlier ceiling was Rs 7,000 a month. Similarly, professionals earning up to Rs 60,000 a year would not have to pay the tax. The previous exemption was up to Rs 18,000 a year (see chart).

The professional tax schedule, specifying who is eligible to pay tax and at what rate, was cut to four pages from hundreds of entries earlier.

Second, registering for professional tax payment is at present cumbersome and time-taking. Mitra introduced enrolment and registration through a web-based electronic module. It also proposed self-generation of the dematerialised registration or online certificates.

Third, an amnesty scheme was introduced for those who are yet to register for professional tax. People can now register after paying anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 without having to cough up any interest or fine.

Industry observers said Mitra was hoping that compliance would expand the tax base and increase the overall revenue collection of the state.

Trade bodies welcomed the government’s decision on VAT and professional tax.

Sanjay Agarwal, the president of the MCC Chamber of Commerce, said the proposals would go a long way in reforming the tax system in Bengal.

For encouraging growth of micro and small-scale enterprises to generate jobs, the budget extended the benefit of Industrial Promotion Assistance till March 31, 2015.