The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) on Wednesday directed its field formations to quickly chalk out an action plan for clearing pending refunds and drawback payments for a smooth transition to the goods and services tax regime, which is to be rolled out from April. In a communication to top officials, Najib Shah, chairman of the board, which will play a pivotal role in GST administration, wrote: “This would reassure stakeholders that trade facilitation remains our top priority and also give them confidence that we are fully capable of handling a transformational reform like GST.”
Apart from assessing the 16 lakh indirect taxpayers, the CBEC’s functions include release of excise, service tax and customs refunds to them, implementation of the duty drawback schemes for exporters and administering the rebate schemes. Most excise sops have of late taken the form of refunds, rather than exemptions — for instance, R19,000 crore was refunded to excise assessees in the 11 geographically disadvantaged states in 2015-16.
Lauding the Hyderabad zone for undertaking “Mission Zero” campaign to reduce pendency of work in a time-bound manner, Shah urged other centres to replicate the “good work”. Such drives, he noted, would improve ease of doing business. For example, focused attention of pre-audit would immediately improve the disposal of refunds and rebate claims of businesses.
The government is likely to overhaul the CBEC’s organisational structure to administer the Central GST and Integrated-GST from April 1, the appointed date for rolling out the GST. A directorate general for dispute resolution has been proposed too, while specialised adjudication verticals have been suggested in seven major cities.
With the implementation of GST, the government expects the number of taxpayers under indirect tax laws (including those under the administrative control of states) to increase from 36 lakh at present to about 65 lakh.
The GST Council, chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley, is already working towards finalising the structure of the new tax law and three rounds of meetings are already concluded.