Service tax rate hiked to 12 per cent

New Delhi: Telephone use, eat-outs and other activities will cost more as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today proposed increasing the service tax rate to 12 per cent from 10 per cent and introducing a negative list aimed at bringing more services under the tax net.

"I propose to raise the service tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent … My proposals from service tax are expected to yield an additional revenue of Rs 18,660 crore," Mukherjee said while presenting the Budget for 2012-13. The government has estimated to collect Rs 95,000 crore from service tax in the current fiscal and has pegged the next year`s target at Rs 1.24 lakh crore.

"I propose to tax all services except those in the negative list. The list comprises 17 heads and has been drawn up, keeping in view the federal nature of our polity, the best international practices and our socio-economic requirements," Mukherjee said. The services not under the negative list will attract 12 per cent service tax.

Last year, the Centre had proposed a negative list containing 22 services. Tax at the rate of 10 per cent is currently levied on 119 services. The services that comprise the negative list include those provided by the government or local authorities, except a few specified services where they compete with private sector.

The list also includes pre-school and school education, recognised education at higher levels and approved vocational education, renting of residential dwellings, entertainment and amusement services and a large part of public transportation including metered cabs, and agriculture and animal husbandry.

The negative list concept is practised globally and is proposed to be introduced in India as part of the goods and services tax (GST) regime. "Movement towards the negative list will result in reducing nearly 290 definitions and descriptions in the Act to 54, and the exemptions from the existing 88 to 10," Mukherjee said.

He also announced a list of services which are exempted from service tax. This include health care, services provided by charities, religious persons, performing artists in folk, sportspersons and classical arts.

Also individual advocates providing services to non-business entities, independent journalists, and services by way of animal care or car parking will be exempted from tax. Further, Mukherjee also proposed to exempt the film industry from service tax on copy rights, relating to recording of cinematographic films.

On service tax on life insurance services, if the entire premium is not towards risk cover, then the first year`s premium shall be taxed at the rate of 3 per cent. Subsequent premia shall attract tax at the rate of 1.5 per cent, he said adding availment of full cenvat credit is being allowed.

Transport of passengers embarking in India for domestic and international journey by air would attract an ad-valorem rate of 12 per cent, with abatement of 60 per cent in case of economy travel. The dual rate structure of maximum service tax of Rs 150 and Rs 750 in case of economy class travel has also been proposed in the Budget. At current prices, the contribution from services during 2010-11 works out to about Rs 50 lakh crore. However, the total collection from service tax during 2010-11 was over Rs 70,000 crore.