Banks under taxman scanner for GST refund on ATM transactions
The indirect tax department’s investigation arm is scrutinising the GST credit availed by banks on taxes paid by their ATM vendors and could soon ask banks to cut the credit availed by them, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The taxmen are examining whether banks are eligible to avail 100% of Goods & Services Tax (GST) credit on services provided by vendors such as ATM withdrawal when a majority of such transactions are not charged to consumers. The scrutiny started after banks claimed 100% input tax credit on the amount paid to ATM vendors who are responsible for maintenance and cash supply to the machines. The vendors charge per withdrawal and add GST on the bills submitted to banks. Now, the banks have claimed input tax credit on the amount paid to vendors but this practice has come under the scanner.
The tax officials believe that since banks don’t charge on many withdrawals which are free to customers, 100% input credit should not be claimed. The investigators have discovered that banks on an average charge only for about 40% of the ATM transactions from their customers. If the transactions are correlated on a one-on-one basis and input tax credit is taken only on those that are chargeable, there would be a considerable loss of credit to the banks.“The process of investigations has gained pace and banks could get notices/summons asking for clarification and data to enable the authorities to proceed further in the coming months,” said an official in the know.
Explaining the issue further he added, “So if a vendor maintains an ATM and charges say Rs 2 per withdrawal for 100 withdrawals in a month, the total fees would come to Rs 200. On that 18% GST would be levied, most banks avail credit of this GST paid by their vendors when they charge their customers.” “The problem here is, banks do not charge for all the transactions, so how could they claim credit for full GST paid by the vendors?” he asked.
Putting restrictions on credit eligibility or seeking to establish a transaction level nexus would be hotly contested by banks and would open the litigation floodgates,” said MS Mani, partner, Deloitte India. The tax department’s move comes around a time of increased scrutiny for banks for service tax payments and the way they claim VAT credits. ET had reported on April 24 that the tax department had issued show cause notices to banks such as State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI BankNSE 1.01 %, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra BankNSE 0.77 % among others to pay tax that could be around Rs 40,000 crore. The sales tax demand was retrospective with a 12% service tax claimed since 2012, 18% interest on the amount and a 100% penalty.
The finance ministry is believed to be unhappy with this and is set to strike down the demand but not before a strong complaint from banks. Separately, the intelligence arm of the indirect tax department had also issued notices to four public sector banks and half a dozen ATM service providers for alleged manipulation of VAT credits. ET had on March 27 reported that the revenue department’s intelligence unit has launched an investigation into the alleged collusion between select banks and their ATM service providers for avoiding payment of VAT and wrongful claim of tax credit. The investigators are looking into whether the contracts between banks and their service providers are fraudulent or disguised.
The Economoic Times, New Delhi, 11th May 2018