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In 32 months, Punjab distilleries evaded Rs 321 crore stamp duty
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 30
Punjab’s distilleries are once again in the news. This time, for evading Rs 321 crore in stamp duty over the last 32 months.

As per a survey conducted by the Punjab Finance Department’s Internal Audit Organisation, 43 distilleries across the state defaulted by under-stamping the bond filed under Form L37 to transport or export liquor. Simply put, the bond is an assurance by the distillery that it would pay excise duty on the liquor being transported.

Eleven teams of the audit body found that distilleries were paying a negligible stamp duty of Rs 50 per consignment though charges were clearly defined in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914. Since August 2009, stamp duty charges in the state stand at 4 per cent of the value of goods. Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had ordered the audit inquiry on May 21.

The audit body’s report claims that the under-stamping took place in the presence of excise officials posted in these distilleries and responsible for complying with provisions of the Excise Act. It says that the matter was discussed with various Excise and Taxation Officers (ETOs) — including the ETO posted at Patiala’s Maine Distillery as well as officers at the headquarters — but nobody could explain the reason behind under-stamping.

The audit body also examined representations from the Punjab Distillers Association, which claimed that documents submitted in Form L37 were only a Memorandum Agreement and not a bond, as per the Excise Department’s provisions. But the Finance Department, in its meeting chaired by the Finance Minister yesterday, ruled that the documents submitted under Form L37 were indeed a bond and liable to be charged stamp duty under rules.

The State Excise and Taxation Department, however, denied that any evasion was taking place. The matter has now been referred to the Financial Commissioner, Revenue, who will adjudicate on it.

An Excise Department official said the department was collecting both export duty and central sales tax on the same form.

The official said Form L37 started with the word “Agreement” and a stamp duty of Rs 50 was charged on all agreements. Other states were also treating Form L37 as an agreement — HP was charging Rs 2.50 for it, Haryana Rs 15 and Delhi Rs 100.





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