Tuesday, June 9, 2015

TAX CHECK-POSTS SET UP IN ASSAM (Utility and essentiality)

          The tax check posts play a pivotal role in the revenue generation, revenue mobilization projects and revenue augmentation projects. The aim and object of setting up check posts with erection of barriers are to prevent, detect and arrest the tax-dodging episode by a section of unscrupulous dealers. The administration of such project ought to be methodical and law best with sincerity and high morality. Any imposition or influence, exerted from out side the scenario may have an adverse consequential effect and the system is likely to be cracked down with the inflow of indiscipline and callousness. The Government of Assam introduced this constructive project long back in 1971-72, when the Assam Sales Tax Act, 1947 and the Assam Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1956 were in operation. The provisions of the said Acts were not very much rigid and dynamic without a constructive vision. The amalgamated, consolidated and amended sales tax law, the Assam General Sales Tax Act, 1993 introduced from 01.07.1993 formulated a new revenue-oriented vision.
      Three check- posts were set up originally in Assam in the year 1971-72 were : (i) The Boxirhat Check post (in the territorial border of Assam and West Bengal); (ii) The Damra (Sreerampur) Check post; (in the territorial border of Assam and West Bengal) and (iii) The Churaibari Check post (in the territorial border of Assam and Tripura). The other check posts set up gradually are-
              (i)The Khanapra Check –post, (in the territorial border of Assam and Meghalaya); (ii) The Narayanpur Check-post (in the territorial border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh); (iii) The Sukanjan Check -post (in the territorial border of Assam and Nagaland); (iv) The Dhalaibazar Check- post (in the territorial border of Assam and Mizoram); (v) The Dighalkhal Check-post (in the territorial border of Assam and Meghalaya); (vi) The Jalukbari Check-post (in the heart of the Guwahati city on the by pass of the National High way); (vii) The Kabaitary Check (in the heart of the Jogighopa town on the National High way); (viii) The Bhalukdubi Check-post (in the territorial border of Assam and Meghalaya).
            The Jalukbari Check-post, Kabaitari Check-post and Bhalukdubi Check-posts were set- up with a view to check, prevent and arrest evasion of taxes by the coal traders dealing in Meghalaya coal. Apart from these, some temporary check posts are also functioning in different parts of Assam, namely; (i) The B.G. Check post at Bamunimaidan to check the movement of goods from B.G. railway-yard at New Guwahati and (ii) The Jagun Check post (in the territorial border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh) to check the trucks importing coal from Arunachal Pradesh. The Batabari check post) was operating near the Koliabhora- Bridge on the Tezpur (Mission Charali) - Kaliabar sector of the National High way, but this was dismantled long back. Practically, there is no  device to check the goods vehicles, coming across  Boxirhat and Sreerampur Checkpost to Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh via Baihata Charali to Tezpur and Upper Assam upto Arunachal Pradesh in the North Bank of Brahmaputra and (ii) from Arunachal Pradesh, Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur and Tezpur to Upper Assam and the north eastern side of Arunachal Pradesh. Any evasion of taxes during movement of such goods vehicles can-not be detected. It is felt that setting up of a check post at the juncture of two National High Ways is very much essential.
          The Government of Assam has not set-up any check post in Assam-Manipur border. The Silchar Unit is functioning as a Deemed check post in order to prevent evasion of taxes as the entry and exit check post. The issue and endorsement of the transit passes are simply farce. A good number of goods vehicles use to move freely and many vehicles destined to Manipur terminate the journey in Assam causing evasion of taxes.
           The writer of this paper gathered some experience, when he was posted at newly established Damra Check post, set up in an open hazardous place in 1971-72. There was practically no movement of the vehicles on the incomplete Lateral Road (now National High Way). A firm conviction formed in the mind at the maiden hours that the austerity of the taxation department and the integrity of the officers may not be maintained, as the atmosphere of the check post will not likely to be healthy, but polluted. Now with expansion of the project and incessant flow of traffic, the hazardous area has been converted to a township.  In fact, such conviction of mind to some extent has come to the reality. This is not required to be elaborated or explained.
Border check posts
         Boxirhat Check PostThe Boxirhat Check Post is functioning on the same complex since its installation in 1971-72 with renovation of the original house- structures. The road passage in front of the check post is very narrow. The raw of the incoming and the out-going goods vehicles on the either side of the road creates heavy traffic congestion, causing thereby acute inconvenience to other road users. No weigh bridge has been installed to get the accuracy of weight of the goods disclosed in the challan-manifest; no wide platform has been designed to unload and inspect the suspicious goods vehicles with the provision of man power. Accommodation for detention of more than three or four goods vehicles does not exist in the narrow passage in the front. The numbers of goods vehicles may make way to escape from checking for want of these vital shortfalls. A parallel road beyond the Boxirhat check post is also there and this posed to be a serious threat to revenue generation for diversion of traffic.
      Damra Check-postThe Damra Check post has now been designed as a Composite Check post for the unified functioning of the taxation and other allied revenue generated departments. The checking operation can now be undertaken in a disciplined way. The important infrastructures, like installation of weigh -bridge, adequate man power for loading and unloading of the loaded vehicles are, however, still non-existent. The vehicles, suspected have carried the over weight- goods, unauthorized and unaccounted goods can-not be checked properly. A road near the Sonkosh Bridge via Bajugaon to Haraphuta is there. If the said road has been improved by now, the small vehicles may have thorough passage of movement through this diverted road.
Transit Passes
    The Boxirhat and Damra check posts (the entry check posts) are to issue transit passes as the entry check post in respect of the goods vehicles moving to the places out side the State through the corridor of Assam. These have as well to make endorsement of the transit passes as the exit check post in respect goods vehicles from the other six sister States of the north-east-region. Some times the endorsement of the transit passes proves to be a farce. Some goods vehicles, obtaining transit passes, do not move physically and the goods are sold in Assam as unaccounted goods. The endorsement of the transit passes becomes a paper work only.
Some lacunea
      The tea carrying vehicles are not checked properly to acquire primary knowledge in relation to the actual character of the goods moved. Whether these were meant for (i) auction sales, (ii)local sales, (iii) inter-State sales, (iv) stock transfer or export are not properly verified from the inner (secret documents) carried in the vehicles. Any perverse or ulterior motive may cause a substantial loss to the State, if it remains unveiled. The drama of transfer of stock by manipulation of sales deals is a fraudulent exercise by a section of tea gardens of Assam. Likewise, the character of the movement of raw (whether is sale or stock transfer) can not be properly identified. Coal, imported from Meghalaya without proper purchase and sale documents do not ensure accuracy of weight and other allied matters. The sales value in respect of the consignments is never verified by way of follow up action.
    Khanapara Check-post- The Khanapara Check post was originally set -up at the juncture of the Guwahati- Shillong Road and the National High Way by pass at Khanapara. When the project for construction of the Four Lane- High- Way was taken up, the check post had to be shifted and set up at Jorabat at the juncture of :  (i)  Guwahati -Shillong Road and (ii) Guwahati- Upper Assam Road. The functioning of the office is carried on from an interior building of the triangular- structured roads, lacking any direct control of traffic.
      The location of the check post is unique. One leads to the places of Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram States, while other to the places of Upper Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur States. No barrier has been erected on the roads. The goods vehicles use to move freely without any obstruction. Acute shortage of departmental man power as well as other law enforcing machineries has been causing immense administrative inconveniences in intercepting, detaining and proper checking of the goods vehicles on both the roads. The scanty man power, detailed at the check post, can hardly keep proper vigilance on the road after attending arduous nature of duties in the office, like verification of the documents with entry thereof in the records and on line transmission of movement and other allied matters. The authenticity and accuracy of the documents, declarations can not be verified properly for want of weigh bridge, checking yard with unloading facilities and non-existent of labour element with other infrastructures. Such checking works have, therefore, to be completed half- heartedly. In night hours, the movement of illegal goods carrying vehicles; gain the momentum. The on-line-communication is not always effective for want of power supply, shut down of server and other odds. Moreover, use and utilization of the on line vehicles are possible, when the goods vehicles are within the ambit of the checking net. Any vehicle making escape, can not be tagged under the purview of the on line system.
  The term ‘Khanapara Check’ post is a misnomer one, in as much as, it is located at Jorabat far away from Khanapara.  Next to Boxirhat and Damra check posts, this check-post is very much important. The flows of goods traffics use to continue day and night. The dealers, it is learnt, use to make movement of iron materials, cement, coal etc. from the industrial, commercial and mine ore areas of Meghalaya areas in dead hours of night and the same can not be properly apprehended and checked. The goods vehicles coming from different places of within and outside the State of Assam and more particularly from Guwahati, the nerve centre of business in Assam, can not be checked or counter -checked for want of requisite infrastructures, as discussed above. In many cases, the free flow of unaccounted goods takes place on the strength of fabricated/ manipulated documents, which make way for evasion of taxes.
    As stated earlier, the issue and endorsement of the transit passes at this entry cum exit check post on many occasions prove to be a farce beset with the paper work only.
Way and style to be improved
  Khanapara check post has been operating with much inconvenience without having adequate infrastructure. There is ample scope for increasing the revenue earning, but this can not be mobilized and materialed due to the unhealthy location of the check post. The officers can not be blamed alone, as in many cases, they are helpless.  There haven marathon flow of goods vehicles moving from-  (i) six sister States of Assam; (ii) West Bengal and other east, west, North and south States of India; (iii) Guwahati and Upper Assam. A few vehicles can be intercepted and major portion escape from checking. Non-erection of barrier and inadequate skilled man-power (officials, security and labour) are primarily responsible for the mal-functioning of this check post. Lack of strict executive supervisions and inspection are also simultaneously responsible for unhealthy and inefficient functioning of the check post. Lack of requite infrastructure has been added fuels to the odds. There is scope for increasing the revenue if this check post is re-designed and austerity is maintained in the mode of functioning.
  It is felt that way and style of the present check post are to be modified, reformed and renovated. The same is needed to be designed denovo. The existing check post at Jorabat can-not ensure adequately proper generation and augmentation of the revenue of the State. This check post is operating for the shake of operation in absence of thought provoking programme. The present location of the check post is not congeniel to arrest evasion of taxes and to make way for legitimate earning of revenue.
Jorabat check post to be bifurcated
   In our view, for the healthy and efficient collection of revenue of the State, the existing check post at Jorabat may be dismantled and it is to be bifurcated into two- (i) in between Kshetri and Jagiroad to check the goods vehicles moving from Guwahati and Shillong side and (ii) two or three kilometer away from Jorabat. When proper check post is set-up and barrier is erected in either proposed check post equipped with adequate skilled man power and other required infrastructure, proper checking of the goods vehicles will be possible and the trend of evasion of taxes will be minimized.
Mobile Squad
There is no Vigilance wing or Mobile squad to follow up the suspected goods vehicles, which may have escaped proper checking either by defying signal or by not disclosing the actual and proper contents of the goods and to apprehend the same. The present adequate man-power in the taxation department, if organized properly and rationally and detailed properly for checking of the goods vehicles, transport godowns and business premises with godowns under the direct supervision of the Commissioner of Taxes, a fruitful result is likely to be yielded. There should be a computerized net-work on the lawful movement of the officers. The mal-functioning will automatically be discouraged, if proper vigilance is their with a constructive vision.
 Narayanpur Check Post-  Narayanpur Check post is located in the Narayanpur area of Lakhimpur district. Though it is termed as an inter-State border check post between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the entry point to (i) Arunach Pradesh at Bandardwa remains about 15 K.M. away from the check post. In fact, the goods vehicles are destined to the two parts of Arunachal Pradesh (i) via Bandarwa and (ii) via Lakhimpur Dhemaji and Silapathar. The proper movement of the goods vehicles to Arunachal Pradesh can not thus always be ensured and scope for diversion to the Assam areas always remain there. The requisite infrastructures, as stated in earlier cases, are as well in-existent in this check post. The episode of misuse the transit pass is also existent.
Sukanjan Check Post-  This is an inter-State check post between Assam Nagaland and Manipur, located near Dimapur, the entry point of Nagaland. Like other check posts, as stated above, there is lack of adequate infrastructures.
Churaibari Check Post- This check post was set up in the year 1971-72 at the territorial border of Assam and Tripura. This is another important check post in Assam and heavy traffic moves through this check post. There is a proposal to install a composite check post, but the same has not materialized so far. The requite infrastructures are lacking alike other check posts of Assam.
Dhalaibazar Check Post-  Dhalaibazar check post has been set-up in the territorial border of Assam and Mizoram. The functioning of the check post is being carried on without the requisite infrastructure, as in the other check posts.
. Dighalkhal check post-  This check post has been set-up in the territorial border of Assam and Meghalaya. The requisite infrastructures are lacking as in the other check posts set-up in Assam.
Deemed check post at Silchar Unit:   The Government of Assam has not set-up any tax check post at Jiribam on the Assam Manipur territorial border, though in the counterpart in the State of Manipur is reported to been installed. The Silchar unit of Barak valley is functioning as the Deemed Check post for the purpose. Actually, this meant for issue and countersignature of Transit Passes. It is quite absurd that the said Deemed check post in any can play any pivotal role in checking, preventing and arresting of taxes from a remote area of about 25 kilometer. A huge leakage of State tax revenue is reported to be taking place consequent upon non-setting up a check post in Jiribam area at the Assam-Nagaland border. Presently, the Deemed Check post at Silchar is meant for paper works only.It is in no way serving the purpose of checking, preventing and arresting evasion of taxes. It is simply a farce.
Coal check-posts
      Jalukbari Check-Post- The Jalukbari Check Post was originally set-up near the Jalukbari Police Station (not very far from Saraighat Bridge). The same was shifted to Gotanagar, a place on the by pass of the National High Way of Guwahati City. The main purpose of this check post is to check the Khasi coal of Meghalaya. Though this project has been identified as the check post, but in real sense, the proper functioning of the check post, is not there. There is no barrier to intercept the coal moving vehicles. The vehicles are made stationary at the check- post automatically for the purpose of procuring the countersignature of the roads challans by the coal transporters at their behest, as otherwise they will be answerable at the Kabaitari check post, railway booking yard and inter-State check posts at Boxirhat and Damra (Sreerampur). No weigh bridge has been installed to ascertain the accuracy of the weight of coal carried. In fact, the accuracy of value of coal can be determined to some extent in consideration of the weight of the goods carried, beset with the prevalent market price thereof.
Powers to make assessment of tax
      The Officer-in-charge of the check post (taxing authority) of the Jalukbari check post, on the other hand, has been conferred with the statutory powers of registration, assessment, recovery of taxes with other allied functions under the sales tax laws, operating in the State. In true sense, this check post is like a unit of the taxation department.
    The normal procedure is that the coal dealer are to apply for registration under the Assam Value Added Tax Act, 2003 (VAT Act) and the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 (Central Act) before the check post authority. They are registered on application, accompanied by the requite documents and evidences on achieving satisfaction by the taxing authority. Such registered dealers are to apply and to procure the road challans, countersigned by the taxing authority on payment of security/additional security, so as to ensure proper payment of tax on the goods moved against such challans. Under the statute of the Acts, such amount of security is required to be paid by a dealer after a reasonable opportunity of being heard is provided with reasons to be recorded in writing. As a matter of convention, the taxing authority use to fix a pre-fixed amount of security in this respect on the classified (weight-basis) coal trucks. The mandatory provisions of the Act are not observed rather ignored.
     Generally, intention of obtaining the countersigned challan is that the registered dealers, so obtaining the challans, are to make movement of coal by goods vehicles on the strength of such countersigned challans. Incidentally, some third parties get themselves associated in such fantastic goods movement scenario. A common practice is that such registered dealers use make sales of the countersigned challans, so obtained, to some third parties at a higher price  in respect of the challans than paid by challan. In such exercise, no coal is sold by the registered dealers physically. The purchasers of the countersigned challans use to make the movement of coal under the banner of such countersigned challans, obtained by the registered dealers. The third parties, therefore, enjoy the benefit  of sale and purchase of the goods without getting themselves registered under the laales rax law of the  State,, while the registered dealer acquire profit out of the sales of the countersigned challans. The registered dealers submit returns. For that purpose, they prepare some fabricated accounts and get the same audited by the Chartered Accountant. The taxing authority thereafter makes the assessment on the basis of the prepared accounts. The actual persons involved in the sale deals remain away from the picture.
         No extra payment of tax is made the said dealers along with the returns. The taxing authority use to forfeit a part of the security to adjust against the tax as assessed on such fabricated accounts.  When the payment of security paid by such registered dealers goes to a higher side, the balance amount ought to remain in tact as security, which is subject to future adjustment against the tax payable. A convention is, however, maintained that such excess amount of security is to be processed for refund and the competent taxing authority is to accord approval either for physical refund or for adjustment against future security. Actually Section 7 of the Central Act (read with the Government of India Notification No.643 dated 22.02.1957), vested the power of registration with other actions to the taxing authority of the area, operating the general sales tax law of the State (viz VAT Act). The administration of the said Section 7 is not to be governed by the provisions of the VAT Act, which evident in Section 9(2) of the Central Act. No delegation of power is also necessary for exercising the provisions of Section 7 of the Central Act. This seems to be very much confusing. This episode of refund of security seems to be meaningful.
Assessment of coal is fun-fare
      In our discussion it is well reflected that the actual seller of coal remains away from the tax levy scenario. The quantum of sales and value received thereof do not come under the purview of assessment. Such seller never comes to the picture. The dealer getting them registered, obtaining countersigned challans are to face the assessment proceedings on the basis of some imaginary challans. The taxing authority never insists for furnishing the actual sales proceeds and make assessment on some imaginary and fabricated amount of sales. Similar is the case of refund/adjustment of the security money. This is amusing. A fun-fare is there in the whole process. The quantum of actual sale value is much higher, which is never followed up or investigated for the purpose of levy of tax.
.Local sales to the brick fields and industries
       A good numbers of coal dealers also use to supply coal to the brick or other industries in the extensive areas across the check post. Since there is no barriers to stop such coal vehicles and there is no obligation to produce the countersigned challans, a section of the coal traders make way to move such coal trucks without payment of security or countersignature of challan. The State is thus being deprived of its legitimate revenue under the VAT Act.
 Kabaitari Check Post :  The Kabaitari check post was started near the railway station at Jogighopa in 1993 in order to check the coal trucks from Nangal areas of Meghalaya. This check post was originally functioning at Karbala in between Goalpara and Pancharatra but shifted to Kabaitary, when the construction of Naranarayan Setu over the Brahmaputra was nearing completion. A barrier has been erected on the High way and proper checking facilities are available. Identical to the Jalukbari check post, the Weigh Bridge and other infrastructures are not there. This check post is also functioning simultaneously like a Unit and the check post authorities have been provided with the power of registration, assessment and other allied matters in the style of the Jalukbari check post. The shortfalls or deficiencies, as discussed in the case of Jalukbari check post, are co-existent in this check post as well.
Bhalukdubi Check Post : A temporary check post was set up near Dudhnai to check the coal trucks from the Meghalaya (Nangal) coal fields. The requisite infrastructure has not been provided. The operation of this check post is made by the tax officials of the Goalpara unit.
Jagun Check Post :  A temporary check post in functioning at Jagun in the territorial border of Assam and Arunachal to check the coal trucks coming from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam. This road, in fact, is a part of the erstwhile Steel Well Road, leading to Myanmar. The operation of this check post, in our opinion, may not be restricted to coal only, but it is to be extended to checking of other goods vehicles for the purpose of checking, preventing and arresting evasion of taxes.
    If it is considered to be congeniel, provisions for the required infrastructures are to be made accordingly.
Necessity of a check post near Sonari in Assam Nagaland border
Of late, the coal loaded trucks are entering into the State of Assam for trade activities. The State Government has already taken steps to check, prevent of evasion of taxes on the sales of imported coal from Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. It may consider to set-up check post near the Sonari area of Assam Nagaland border so that proper checking of evasion of taxes is possible. At present some operation mission are under taken by the tax officials Sivsagar unit at the best of the district civil/police authorities. A permanent structure may yield substantial amount of revenue.
Coal Check Post may be non-functioning
   The Government of India has completed a project of rail communication from Dudhnoi (Assam) to Mendipathar( Meghalaya). Another project has been undertaken to construct the railway line from Digaru to Burnihat area of Meghalaya. When the railway communication system will fully be introduced, the movement of coal by truck will automatically be reduced, as it will make way for direct communication. The revenue collection out of coal in the State of Assam will naturally suffer a heavy set-back.
Goods exported to Bhutan
 The export of goods on sales to the places out side the territory of India does not attract any tax liability under the Central Act. The sales made to the exporter inside or in the course of inter-State trade or commerce, are also exempted from tax. There is no tax check post in the inter-national border of Bhutan. It reveals sometimes from the media report that a section of traders makes sales of goods in the course of inter-State trade or commerce, but design as export and claim exemption of taxes by manipulation of documents. The custom’s certificates, so endorsed in the Assam-Bhutan boarder are found to be one sided. Unless there is rigidity, the State will go on losing the legitimate tax revenue.
Set- back in operation of check posts
It is a burning topic of the day that the trend of corruption in the check post has gone very high. But a question simultaneously crops up -‘Where there is no corruption?’ The flow of corruption has spread in all spheres of human lives. The corruption was there, it is there and it will be there. This is evolutionary and there is the question of degree. The slack and inefficient administration without proper supervision is primarily responsible for this odd. The corruption extended from the political level to the grass-root level. Of course, there is some exception. The direct or   indirect blessings and support from the high ups and the political bosses leave room for the growth of corruption. In the field of administration now the tiger and the goat use to drink water on the same beach without any fear. In the earlier days, there was service discipline. The misconduct of the employees invites disciplinary action. Now, by doing major crime, fiscal anomalies the employees manage to escape, Adequate protection is received from the co-associates. Appointment, transfer, postings etc. are governed by the flow of money, as is commomly taking berth in the news media and publicity media. The payments out of ill-earned money in many cases are the regular features. One will be surprised to see that a newly appointee is less eager to read the law books and and to study the departmental records, but they are more concerned to earn black money. As a result, mode and standard of works have gradually reached to the anti-climax. None can control. Only blame put to the subordinates is meaningless. The category wise superiors, administrators and high ups can not escape.  The mode of administration has already gone down and if is not repaired and upgraded a collapse of the whole system will be inevitable.
How administration can be upgraded
A vacuum has been created in almost all the administrative departments after retirement of the seasoned and veteran personnel. The new generations are not very keen and enthusiastic to fill up the vacuum and restore the traditional approaches with dynamism. It is not possible on the part of the top officials to control the day to day performances of the incumbents. The immediate superiors are to take up the tusk category-wise chronologically. Primarily, there must have sufficient knowledge regarding the assignment of such works and mode of performances. The filing system and maintenance of case records of the taxation department was unique, methodical and systematic. The Index Register, Assessment, Demand and collection Registers reflect the dossier of a dealer like a mirror. The area-wise, road- wise and lane wise survey with upto date entries of the dealers provides a true and clean picture of the trades of all category with their modus-operandi. If these are being done, it will be instrumental to upgrade the revenue generation mission of the department. The tax payers are the respected persons. They are not to be ignored and under-estimated. Proper guide-line will curtail their astray-activities and bring to the right path. Inspection, search and seizure are the important part of activities of the tax officers, but it is to be undertaken with proper materials collected and should be a go as you like process. The survey, inspection, search and seizures are to be done methodically and not with high handedness.
Organization of Seninars and work shops
With the evolution of the society, a radical change is taking place day by day. Dialogues and deliberations are necessary to implement such changes. Seminars are to be organized periodically to exchange views,  to gather knowledge and to come to conclusion. Frequent holding of workshops exchange and mobilization of the theoretical and practical approaches has a dire necessary. Such constructive measures will, no doubt, up grade the functioning  and the austerity and gravity of the department will be enhanced.

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