As GST approaches, CBEC looks at restructuring itself

Amid staff concerns over redundancy in the post-goods and services tax (GST) regime from the coming financial year, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) is identifying new areas of work in international customs, risk assessment, post-clearance audits and taxpayer services, among others, to remain relevant.

With limited administrative role under GST, the indirect tax department is aiming to redeploy. "There are a lot of areas where maturity of administration needs to go up. We are not able to perform in those due to lack of workforce and resources. GST is one opportunity -- it will free-up manpower to concentrate on important areas like data analysis, intellectual property, risk assessment, etc," said a senior official.

There will be new Customs divisions. One on dispute resolution, capacity building and compliance is being deliberated.

CBEC administers service tax, Customs duty and excise duty. GST, expected to be rolled out from July 1, will subsume service tax and excise duty, to be jointly administered with states. CBEC officers had protested to the finance minister on this division of powers. By the Centre-states agreement, the latter will monitor 90 per cent of the taxpayer base, whose annual revenue is up to Rs 1.5 crore each. The other 10 per cent will be with the Centre.

Officers had protested that many of them would have little work. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had assured that the new regime would generate adequate opportunities.

"I see no reason for disquiet. Opportunities available in the service are protected, except that the nature of activities will change. The extent of revenue to be collected will expand (under GST). Economic activity will expand," he'd told CBEC officials.

The Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) Officers' Association had even sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to reverse the decisions taken by the GST Council.

CBEC is also working on setting up a National Targeting Centre to intercept consignments and do risk profiling. It would identify, develop, update and maintain risk parameters in relation to trade, commodities, services and all stakeholders in the domestic supply chain, among other things.

There could also be a wing to work on data analysis, mutual recognition and free trade agreements with other countries. Post clearance audit is another area to be strengthened. "There is a lot of emphasis on improving facilitation levels without inspection and examination. So, there must be simultaneous strengthening of post-clearance audit. If you are opening doors, we should also focus on revenue and security," said another official.

Last year, CBEC had launched a 'single window interface for facilitating trade, to speed clearance for consignments and improve the 'ease of doing business.' The idea was that importers should not need to run around to get approvals from multiple government agencies for consignments.

The GST Council, chaired by Jaitley and with a minister of state (finance) and state finance ministers as members, will meet over the weekend to discuss the proposed GST laws.

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