Finance Minister P Chidambaram today said the government may not be able to announce amnesty programmes such as the Service Tax Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme (VCES) for the next 20 years due to various factors, including curbs imposed by the Supreme Court.
Addressing an interactive session here with traders and senior Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax officials, the Finance Minister also said, "So far the government has received 9,000 declarations under the VCES, out of which only 107 have been rejected."
VCES was introduced from May 10 as a one-time amnesty scheme to pay service tax dues for the period from October 1, 2007, to December 31, 2012, without interest and penalty.
"If you think that a scheme will come again next year or a scheme will come in 2015, you are wrong. Such schemes cannot be announced every year. There is a Supreme Court judgement on VDIS (which) actually ties up our hands in announcing a scheme on the lines of VDIS (Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme)," Chidambaram said.
"That is why we have to modulate the scheme, so that it does not violate the directions of the Supreme Court. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (and) certainly will not come for next 20 years," Chidambaram said.
The Finance Minister said there are as many as 17 lakh service providers who have voluntarily registered as service tax members and only 7 lakh among them have paid taxes.
Hinting that the government will view tax evasion as a serious offence, Chidambaram said so far 15 persons have been arrested for service tax-related violations.