14 February 2014

TN CM on Rice is not an Agriculture Produce-ST

Service Tax - Rice Not an Agricultural Produce - Jayalalithaa Slams Union Government

IN an acidic letter to the Prime Minister, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said, "I write to bring to your attention an invidious, discriminatory and completely unjust situation that has arisen as a result of an extremely insensitive and regressive interpretation of certain provisions of the Service Tax legislation, which has made the services like storage and handling associated with Rice liable to levy of Service Tax."
DDT had covered this issue in detail in DDT 2275 - 20.01.2014, where in it was mentioned, "So, your rice is going to be costlier because the Finance Ministry thinks that rice is not an agricultural produce. The Finance Ministry officials who interpreted this legality of what rice should be thankful that the tea boy who is waiting to become PM is not aware of this clarification (yet) - what an effective point it would make in his election speeches!"
DDT had in DDT 2276 - 21.01.2014, explained how rice became a non-agricultural produce. The Chief Minister's letter to the Prime Minister explains the issue almost exactly as DDT did.
Now, it is almost sure that the opposition parties will use this to attack the FM and the Government during the elections. It is unfortunate that a brilliant FM will become a political target for a small thing like Service Tax on storage of rice, which will hardly give him any substantial revenue. He should have exempted this by losing a couple of crores instead of losing many seats for his party.
The CM continues with her vitriol.
This very strange stance taken by the Union Finance Minister, that rice is not an agricultural product, while other cereals including wheat, are agricultural produce and hence exempt from levy of service tax on storage and other services is discriminatory, regressive and indefensible. It smacks of unfairness against people residing in certain regions of the country, especially in the South and the East where rice is the staple food grain consumed. It will raise the price of rice in the open market, particularly at a time when food inflation is already weighing down heavily on the common people.
The interpretation given by the Ministry of Finance defies logic and common sense. From time immemorial, rice has been regarded as an "agricultural commodity".
In a thoughtless, insensitive and discriminatory manner, the Ministry of Finance has proceeded to levy service tax on the storage of Rice alone amongst all food grains. It is yet another instance of how distanced and divorced the UPA Government has become from the concerns of the common people. You will agree with me that this calls for your urgent personal intervention to clarify the position and unambiguously declare rice to be agricultural produce and hence not subject to the levy of service tax for all services related with it. The service tax already levied and collected with effect from 1st July, 2012, should also be remitted and returned to the assessees.
I request you to kindly take urgent action in the matter.
Will the PM/FM react or go with the general trend now - that the UPA Government does not do anything right?

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